Noncoronary Collateral Myocardial Blood Flow: The Human Heart’s Forgotten Blood Supply

Marco Picichè*
Cardiac Surgery Department, San Filippo Neri Hospital, Via Martinotti 20, 00135, Rome, Italy

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© Marco Picichè et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Cardiac Surgery Department, San Filippo Neri Hospital, Via Martinotti 20, 00135, Rome, Italy; Tel: 0039-389-157.02.08; E-mail:


The “noncoronary collateral circulation” (NCCC) or “noncoronary collateral myocardial blood flow” (NCCMBF), reaches the heart through a micro-vascular network arising from the bronchial, esophageal, pericardial, diaphragmatic, and aortic arteries. The left and right internal thoracic arteries (ITAs) along with their collateral branches also serve as a source of NCCMBF-a feature seen in other mammals. Under certain circumstances the ITAs have a high potential for developing collateral branches. In the case of severe Leriche syndrome or with chronic obstruction of the abdominal aorta, the ITAs can serve as the main or even sole source of blood supply to the lower limbs. It is also possible for the ITAs to develop angiographically visible branches that directly connect with the coronary arteries. In ischemic conditions there is a functional, ischemia-reducing extracardiac coronary artery supply via natural ipsilateral ITA anastomosis. To date we know little about NCCMBF and its potential benefits in clinical applications, which makes this a challenging and intriguing field of research. This paper reviews all available data on noncoronary collateral blood supply to the human heart.

Keywords: Collateral circulation, Noncoronary collateral blood flow, Internal thoracic artery, Ischemic heart disease, Myocardial revascularization, No-options patients.