Processes in the arterial walls
In atherosclerosis, small patch-like changes occur in the blood vessels that are referred to as plaques. They develop as a result of chronic inflammation of the vessel walls, the cause of which is not yet fully understood. What is certain is that, in the course of plaque formation, macrophages are transformed into foam cells in the epithelium. This process leads to the formation of “fatty streaks”. The thickness of the plaques increases as a result of fibrous tissue accumulation. This leads to a narrowing of the vessels and thus restriction of the blood flow.
If this happens in the coronary arteries, the oxygen supply to the myocardium is reduced, and this results in ischemia. Thrombi may also form if the plaque is swept into the bloodstream after rupture of the inner vessel wall. This can lead to life-threatening complications such as myocardial infarction or stroke.