Fibromuscular Dysplasia

Fibromuscular dysplasia is a medical condition that causes a change in the diameter of the medium-sized arteries in the body. This change in diameter can either be a stenosis (where the diameter decreases), or an aneurysm (where the diameter increases). These vascular regions of increased and decreased diameter occur next to each other, causing a constantly fluctuating diameter.


Fibromuscular dysplasia is a medical condition that causes a change in the diameter of the medium-sized arteries in the body.

Aerobic cellular respiration produces a large supply of ATP. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a very important molecule that is required in order for a cell to function. It is involved in the active transport of many molecules between cell membranes, and supplies the energy required for muscle contraction (to name a few of ATP’s cellular functions). In order for aerobic cellular respiration to take place, oxygen is needed; this is where blood supply comes into play. Oxygen is supplied to cells via the bloodstream. Haemoglobin within red blood cells binds to oxygen molecules and releases them to supply the cells with oxygen. Therefore, it is easy to infer that a change in the diameter of an artery can lead to a change in the oxygen supply to cells. For example, if there is a stenosis of a particular artery, the cells that depend on that artery for their blood supply can expect to receive a much lower oxygen supply.

As you can imagine, it can be very damaging for organs to depend on a supply of blood from an artery which has fibromuscular dysplasia. The constant increase and decrease in diameter of the artery causes the artery to narrow to such an extent, that the organ receiving the blood supply can be seriously damaged by the resulting lack of oxygen supply.

The narrowing of the artery at specific points can have devastating complications. The stenosis leads to increased blood pressure, which can lead to tears in the arterial wall. Most cases of firbomuscular dysplasia affect the arteries that supply the kidneys with blood; the renal arteries that arise off the abdominal aorta. While the condition is most common in the renal arteries, it can arise in the carotid arteries and the arteries that supply blood to the legs (e.g. iliac artery, peroneal artery) and the arms (e.g. axillary artery, brachial artery, radial artery). An inadequate blood supply to the kidneys may lead to chronic kidney failure, while it can also lead to weakened arterial walls, forming bulges called aneurysms. An aneurism rupturing may prove fatal. It is also possible that an artery leading to the brain that is affected by fibromuscular dysplasia ruptures, causing a stroke.

Fibromuscular dysplasia occuring on the carotid artery

A specific, definitive cause of the condition remains unknown; however it is believed that several factors may increase the susceptibility of an individual to develop fibromuscular dysplasia. Genetic factors have proven to be one of the main causes of the condition. The possible genetic inheritance of the condition was first noticed in identical twins that had both inherited renal fibromuscular dysplasia. It has been suggested that the condition is inherited as an autosomal dominant disease, however this is not definite. Few comprehensive molecular genetic studies have been successfully completed. It is also hypothesized that the condition develops due to the cells of the arterial walls not receiving an adequate oxygen supply, leading to the formation of an abnormal artery.

Currently, a cure for fibromuscular dysplasia is not available. The risk of complications can be minimised if the case of fibromuscular dysplasia is minor. This can be done by using a daily antiplatelet such as an aspirin or a mild anticoagulant in order to thin the blood and reduce the chances of a blood clot forming.

Surgical treatment may also be possible through angioplasty, whereby a small balloon is inserted through a catheter and inflated to expand and widen the artery. Furthermore, a stent (a small tube) can be inserted in order to make sure that the artery is kept open.







Fibromuscular Dysplasia

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