A total of 32 (3.6%) patients of 880 undergoing coronary angioplasty during a nine year period at one hospital had extensive dissection (defined as a dissection extending beyond the limits of the dilated angioplasty balloon) in the coronary artery in which the angioplasty procedure was performed. Two (6.25%) of the 32 patients (both of whom were undergoing angioplasty because of unstable angina that was refractory to medical treatment) died as a consequence of the coronary artery dissection. Twelve (38%) needed immediate coronary artery bypass surgery and 11 (34%) had a myocardial infarction, which in four was minor in extent. During follow up, 20 of the 32 patients were successfully managed by medical treatment; only two needed further angioplasty procedures. There were no late deaths. Extensive coronary artery dissection is a serious complication of coronary angioplasty, with a high early mortality and a high incidence of infarction and requirement for bypass surgery. None the less, patients with extensive dissection who are free from the manifestations of acute ischaemia at the end of the procedure can be managed conservatively and have a good immediate and medium term outlook. Attempts should be made to stabilise extensive dissection during coronary angioplasty so that surgical intervention can be delayed or avoided altogether if possible.
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