Background: Previous studies reported a reduced coronary blood flow reserve, assessed by the intravenous administration of dipyridamole, in patients with angina and normal coronary arteries, and early after successful coronary angioplasty, which suggests the presence of small coronary vessel dysfunction. This study aimed to establish whether the mechanisms of small coronary vessel disease in these two groups of patients are similar. Methods: The effects of the intracoronary infusion of adenosine and dipyridamole (maximum dose 2.7 and 7.5 mg/min, respectively) on coronary blood flow velocity were assessed in 11 patients with angina and normal coronary arteries (group A) and in 12 patients immediately after successful coronary angioplasty (group B) using a 0.018'' Doppler wire. Results: Baseline coronary blood flow velocity was significantly higher in group B than group A (34+/-14 versus 19+/-8cm/s; P = 0.001). In group A, coronary blood flow velocity was higher during adenosine than dipyridamole infusion (74+/-17 versus 58+/-21 cm/s; P < 0.001), whereas in group B velocities were similar (85+/-30 versus 78+/-32 cm/s; NS). Conclusions: In patients with angina and normal coronary arteries, a maximal dose of adenosine causes a greater coronary dilation than that of dipyridamole. Given that dipyridamole operates mainly through an inhibition of adenosine re-uptake, it can only dilate the arteriolar segments exposed to endogenous adenosine. Therefore, the lower response to dipyridamole than to exogenous adenosine observed in patients with angina and normal coronary arteries suggests an impairment of the pre-arterioles that are not influenced by endogenous adenosine, resulting in a limited flow-mediated dilation in response to arteriolar dilation. Such an impairment is not apparent immediately after successful coronary angioplasty, where the most obvious abnormality is an increase of baseline coronary blood flow velocity.
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