Pathogenesis of early atherosclerotic lesions in infants.
Pathol Res Pract. 2004;200(5):403-10. PMID: 15239349
Institute of Pathology, University of Milan, Via della Commenda 19, 20122 Milan, Italy. firstname.lastname@example.org
High serologic lipid levels, infections, and genetic susceptibility have been proposed as possible etiologic factors of initial atherosclerotic lesions of the coronary arteries in infancy. At a recent WHO annual meeting, it was stated that breast milk substitutes cause irreparable damage in infants. This prompted us to verify whether formula feeding and parental cigarette smoking might play a role in the pathogenesis of early atherosclerotic alterations in infancy. The major epicardial coronary arteries from 36 infants dying suddenly and unexpectedly (sudden infant death syndrome) were embedded in paraffin and serially cut for histologic examination. In 67% of the cases, multifocal coronary early atherosclerotic lesions of varying entities were detected. The alterations ranged from focal plaques with mild myointimal thickening to juvenile soft plaques reducing the arterial lumen. A significant correlation was observed between the early atherosclerotic lesions and the risk factors considered. In particular, we noted different morphologic patterns related to formula feeding and cigarette smoking. Baby formula feeding and parental cigarette smoking might have an atherogenic effect on the coronary walls as from the first months of life. The lesions appear to be larger and more diffuse when both these atherogenic factors are present.