At necropsy five of eight patients (mean age 57 years) who died after intravenous streptokinase treatment for severe acute myocardial infarction (mean Peel index = 18) were found to have a patent infarct related coronary artery. Coronary artery stenoses were caused by fibrofatty atheromatous plaques; there were no residual thrombi in the lumen or acute intimal lesions. Three of these infarcts were of partial thickness (less than two thirds wall width) with sparing of the outer third of the myocardium and subendocardial zones. In the other three patients the infarct related coronary arteries remained histologically closed with residual lumen thrombi and underlying intimal lesions. Two infarcts were transmural. Six of the eight infarcts were noticeably haemorrhagic. Myocardial haemorrhage was confined to areas of necrotic myocardium and did not affect viable regions. These findings suggest that thrombus overlying a complex lesion may be more difficult to lyse than thrombus overlying a simple fibrofatty plaque. They also suggest that myocardial haemorrhage outside the infarct area, which might lead to cardiac rupture or delayed healing, does not usually occur.
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