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The advent of coronary angiography in the 1960s allowed for the risk stratification of patients with stable angina. Patients with unprotected left main coronary artery disease have an increased risk of death related to the large amount of myocardium supplied by this vessel. Although coronary angiography remains the preferred imaging modality for the evaluation of left main coronary artery stenosis, this technique has important limitations. Angiograms of the left main coronary artery segment can be difficult to interpret, and almost one-third of patients can be misclassified when fractional flow reserve is used as the reference. In patients with clinically significant unprotected left main coronary artery disease, surgical revascularization was shown to improve survival compared with medical therapy and has been regarded as the treatment of choice for unprotected left main coronary artery disease. Two large-scale clinical trials published in 2016 support the usefulness of catheter-based revascularization in selected patients with unprotected left main coronary artery disease. In this Review, we describe the pathophysiology of unprotected left main coronary artery disease, discuss diagnostic approaches in light of new noninvasive and invasive imaging techniques, and detail risk stratification models to aid the Heart Team in the decision-making process for determining the best revascularization strategy for these patients.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Rev Cardiol

Publication Date





321 - 331