The frequency and clinical significance of platelet/fibrin microemboli in the microcirculation were investigated in 24 patients whose deaths (before and during hospital admission) were associated with acute myocardial infarction. An acute coronary thrombus was present in all the hearts. In nine hearts an acute thrombus was found in more than one major epicardial coronary artery. A total of 35 acute thrombi were found in the 24 hearts. Platelet/fibrin microemboli were found in 19 (79%) hearts. Eighteen patients died in hospital. The hearts of 16 of these cases showed microemboli; 16 had important arrhythmias or various forms of heart block; 13 showed acute pathological changes in the conduction system. Fourteen of the deaths in hospital were primarily the result of cardiogenic shock and four were primarily caused by arrhythmia. Six of the deaths that occurred before admission to hospital were regarded as being arrhythmic in origin. Three of these showed microemboli and the other three had acute pathological changes in the conduction system. Microemboli were found in two (24%) of 12 control hearts. Coronary thrombosis was found in most deaths caused by acute myocardial infarction and platelet/fibrin microemboli were present in the majority of such hearts. These may arise from the coronary thrombus in the larger upstream vessel supplying the microcirculation.
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