Coronary Embolism: A Systematic Review

Matthew J. Lacey, Sajjad Raza, Hasan Rehman, Rishi Puri, Deepak L. Bhatt, Ankur Kalra

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Coronary embolism is a rare and potentially fatal phenomenon that occurs primarily in patients with valvular heart disease and atrial fibrillation. There is a lack of consensus regarding the diagnosis, treatment, and management of coronary embolism, leaving management at the discretion of the treating physician. Through this review, we aim to establish a better understanding of coronary embolism, and to identify treatment options - invasive and non-invasive - that may be used to manage coronary embolism. Methods and results: Our systematic review included 147 documented cases of coronary embolism from case reports and case series. The average age of our population was 54.2 ± 17.6 years. The most common causes of coronary embolism included infective endocarditis (22.4%), atrial fibrillation (17.0%), and prosthetic heart valve thrombosis (16.3%). Initial presentation was indistinguishable from an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) due to coronary atherosclerosis, and the diagnosis required a high level of suspicion and evaluation with angiography. Treatment strategies included, but were not limited to, thrombectomy, thrombolysis, balloon angioplasty and stent placement. Myocardial dysfunction on echocardiography was observed in over 80% of patients following coronary embolism. “Good outcomes” were reported in 68.7% of case reports and case series, with a mortality rate of 12.9%. Conclusion: Coronary embolism is an under-recognized etiology of myocardial infarction with the potential for significant morbidity and mortality. To improve outcomes, physicians should strive for early diagnosis and intervention based on the underlying etiology. Thrombectomy may be considered with the goal of rapid restoration of coronary flow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-374
Number of pages8
JournalCardiovascular Revascularization Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


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