Spontaneous dissection of the coronary arteries is an uncommon condition that may lead to sudden, fatal coronary artery occlusion. Three cases of sudden death attributable to coronary artery occlusion are presented. Dissection was associated with Marfan's syndrome in the first case, and occurred three weeks postpartum in the second case. In case 1, dissection occurred within the intima, and was not associated with an inflammatory cell infiltrate. In cases 2 and 3, dissection occurred between the tunica media and the external elastic lamina, and was associated with a mixed inflammatory infiltrate, rich in eosinophils, T lymphocytes, and histiocytes. The spatial limitation of the inflammatory infiltrate to the adventitial compartment, together with the absence of inflammation in case 1, suggests a reactive origin rather than a causative role for the inflammatory cells. Detailed examination of serial blocks of any coronary artery occlusion is essential in young patients.
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