Journal Published Online: 01 May 1998
Volume 43, Issue 3

Sudden Unexpected Death Resulting from an Anomalous Hypoplastic Left Coronary Artery



We present a case of sudden death in a 24-year-old, healthy white female who was physically active and participated in sports, including soccer. Two weeks prior to her death, an insurance physical examination revealed an abnormal electrocardiogram which demonstrated flipped T waves in the anterior leads. There was no other remarkable medical history.

At autopsy, only one coronary ostium was demonstrated and it originated from the right aortic sinus. Approximately 0.8 cm from this right coronary artery (RCA) ostium, a left coronary artery (LCA) branched off the RCA at a 90-degree angle. The LCA had luminal diameter of 0.4 m but the LCA had a luminal diameter of only 0.1 cm. The LCA coursed anterior to the base of the pulmonary artery and down the anterior ventricular septum reflecting the usual course of the left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery. The LCA and RCA paths appeared to merge or terminate at the anterior left ventricular myocardium which was discolored gray, a process that involved the inner and middle thirds of the myocardium.

Based on the autopsy findings, we certified the cause of death as a probable arrhythmia due to myocardial fibrosis and dystrophic calcification resulting from complications of an anomalous hypoplastic left coronary artery.

Anomalies of coronary arteries have been classified and studied at autopsy and by clinical angiography. Coronary artery anomalies can be divided into minor and major forms with major anomalies often resulting in cardiac dysfunction that may cause failure and death. Minor anomalies, in general, have no pathophysiological significance and are compatible with life. Minor anomalies include variations in number and location of coronary ostia. A single coronary ostia is exceedingly rare in hearts with no other congenital malformations. The prognostic significance can be unpredictable. A single coronary artery has the potential to be dangerous if obstructed at its main stem, or if it branches at an acute angle. Additionally, hypoplasia of one or more coronary arteries has been found to be associated with sudden death.

Author Information

Erin McConnell, S
Forensic Section, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC
Collins, KA
Forensic Section, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC
Pages: 4
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Stock #: JFS16207J
ISSN: 0022-1198
DOI: 10.1520/JFS16207J