In essential hypertension, ventricular function is determined primarily by the degree of hypertrophy (myocardial factor) and by organic complications in the coronary artery (coronary factor). Ventricular function is inversely correlated with ventricular size and systolic wall stress, inasmuch as ventricular function diminishes when these two variables increase. Even the young hypertensive heart of normal size with no angiographic abnormalities appears to be prone to ischemia, because the coronary reserve is seriously limited even in the absence of coronary stenosis. Unlike ventricular distensibility, myocardial compliance may be normal, even in the presence of pronounced myocardial hypertrophy. As myocardial compliance decreases, systolic wall stress increases and ventricular function is reduced. The hypertensive heart, the most common form of an irregular hypertrophy of the ventricular wall, is found in 14% of such cases. Analysis of the degree of hypertrophy shows that the hypertrophy can be inappropriately high (high mass-to-volume ratio, reduced wall stress), appropriate, or inappropriately low (normal mass-to-volume ratio, increased wall stress). One of the profound mechanisms influencing both myocardial and coronary function in hypertensive heart disease is the pressure-dependent development of smooth vascular hypertrophy (media) of coronary resistance vessels. Consequently, the oxygen supply to the myocardium is impaired and secondary lesions occur such as fibrosis, increased myocardial and perivascular collagen content and scars within the heart muscle. Diastolic dysfunction develops, as well as an increase in myocardial stiffness, thus promoting the transition from the concentric (compensated) to the eccentric or dilated (decompensated) state, with the consequence of the occurrence of cardiac failure. On the basis of both functional and morphological criteria, evidence is presented in this report that coronary small vessel disease is one of the underlying mechanisms for the development of cardiac failure in hypertensive heart disease.
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