Ewa Walczak(1), Stefan Krus(1), Elzbieta Fiejka(1), Michal Walski(2), Renata Celary-Walska(3), Marek Dabrowski(3), Adam Witkowski(4), Zbigniew Chmielak(4), Witold Ruzyllo(4)

Light and Electron Microscopic Picture of Atherosclerotic Plaque in Stable and Unstable Angina*

1)Department of Pathologic Anatomy, Medical University,
2)Medical Research Centre, Polish Academy of Science,
3)Central Clinical Hospital of Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration, Warszawa,
4)Institute of Cardiology, Warszawa-Anin


By presenting this series of 127 cases of coronary atherectomy the authors join the workers who study morphological differences between the atherosclerotic plaques in stable and unstable angina. Routine staining of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded material was completed by the detection of T lymphocytes, macrophages, mast cells, smooth myocytes and grown-in capillaries using monoclonal antibodies (DAKO), as well as by the immunofluorescent demonstration of fibrinogen in the plaques. The plaques derived from patients with unstable angina showed a higher incidence of mast cells (significant) and macrophages (insignificant). These cells render the plaque more susceptible to rupture or fissuring. There was also significantly more frequent and quantitatively more abundant permeation of the plaque by fibrinogen that raises the chance of thrombosis. These findings support the view that unstable angina correlates with the phenomena that favour the rupture of the plaque and thrombosis. Electron microscopy has not been used so far to study coronary atherosclerotic plaques. This material includes 15 plaques from stable and 18 plaques from unstable angina. A cover of fibrin and blood platelets is a regular formation on the surface and in the superficial layer of the plaque from unstable angina. It contributes to the „thrombotic proneness” of the coronary artery. These plaques also show abundant elastic fibres. This pattern corresponds to myo-elastic intimal hyperplasia („intimal thickening”) where the production of intimal elastin constitutes an essential phenomenon. Intimal thickening is interpreted as a preatherosclerotic event. The presence of elastin reflects an early stage of the development of the plaque. The plaque from stable angina shows abundant collagen fibres, which aggravate the lesion.

Address for correspondence and reprint requests to:
Prof. S. Krus M. D.,
Department of Pathological Anatomy, Medical University,
Chalubinskiego 5, 02-004 Warszawa.

* Supported by the Committee of Scientific Investigations, grant Nr. 4 PO 5C 017 09