The presence of an anomalous Cx did not affect this patient’s intraoperative course but it could have posed problems in other cases. If not previously identified, the finding may have caused misinterpretation. In this case, the initial images gave the appearance of a sinus of Valsalva to left atrium fistula or a coronary artery fistula. This was due to the tangential course of the anomalous Cx as it traveled around the aortic root. This could have easily caused confusion and potentially inappropriate therapy if it was not previously identified, and the echocardiographer was not familiar with the potential for anomalous coronary anatomy. Second, surgical access for bypass grafting to the proximal Cx may be challenging or impossible given its retro-aortic course. Third, valve surgery may be complicated by the presence of an anomalous Cx. Several cases of wall motion abnormalities, myocardial infarction, and sudden death have been described in the literature and are thought to be related to mechanical compression of an anomalous retro-aortic Cx by the annuli of mechanical mitral or aortic valves. Given these reports, some have suggested that smaller prostheses or stentless valves should be considered to avoid retro-aortic compression of the Cx.6 When aortic root procedures are undertaken, the presence of an anomalous retro-aortic Cx is important to identify as it may be at risk during dissection or root enlargement.
This case presents the relatively common coronary artery anomaly of a Cx artery arising from the RCA. Although usually benign, intraoperative complications from this particular anomaly have been described. Knowledge of coronary artery anomalies along with comprehensive intraoperative TEE will further define and help avoid misinterpretation of this finding.
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By Drs. Nikolaos J. Skubas, Roman M. Sniecinski, and Martin J. London
- The normal circumflex coronary artery is imaged in the midesophageal short-axis aortic valve view at 0° with retroflexion of the transesophageal echocardiography probe. The circumflex artery is imaged with color flow Doppler under the left atrial appendage. There should be no aliasing at a color flow Doppler scale of 50 cm/s.
- The circumflex coronary artery may have an anomalous origin from either the right sinus of Valsalva or the proximal right coronary artery. It usually follows a retro-aortic route along the atrio-ventricular groove and has a benign prognosis.
- An anomalous circumflex coronary artery with a nonarterial origin (from the pulmonary artery) or traveling between the aorta and pulmonary trunk can present with ischemia, heart failure, or sudden death.
- If unrecognized intraoperatively, an anomalous circumflex artery can result in:
- An incorrect diagnosis of an arterial fistula or a communication between the sinus of Valsalva and the left atrium,
- Difficulty with surgical access for bypass grafting, or
- Mechanical compression during aortic or mitral valve replacement.