• Sign Up

Neointimal Hyperplasia

Neointimal Hyperplasia

Article Author:
Muhammad Zain
Article Author:
Radia Jamil
Article Editor:
Waqas Siddiqui
11/30/2020 3:18:11 PM
For CME on this topic:
Neointimal Hyperplasia CME
PubMed Link:
Neointimal Hyperplasia


Atherosclerosis is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality globally. Currently, many procedures are performed by interventionists and vascular surgeons to treat atherosclerosis, such as balloon angioplasty with or without stenting, endarterectomy, or surgical bypass grafting. However, despite the benefits, these interventions fail from restenosis due to neointimal hyperplasia (NIH). In a normal vasculature, smooth muscle cells (SMC) are found in the tunica media, and they are quiescent with minimal turnover and contractile phenotype. Neointimal hyperplasia refers to post-intervention, pathological, vascular remodeling due to the proliferation and migration of vascular smooth muscle cells into the tunica intima layer, resulting in vascular wall thickening and the gradual loss of luminal patency which may lead to the return of vascular insufficiency symptoms. [1][2] SMC in neointimal hyperplasia lose contractile phenotype, and they differentiate into secretory phenotype predominantly. These modified SMC secrete the growth factors, growth factor receptors, extracellular matrix, proteinases, and inflammatory mediators responsible for neointimal hyperplasia. Many vascular interventions put vessels at risk of injury, leading to restenosis due to activation of the inflammatory cascade and cellular recruitment. It is most evident in "in-stent restenosis" after the plain old balloon angioplasty (POBA) without stenting and percutaneous coronary intervention with bare-metal stenting. Metallic stents were necessary to counteract acute vascular recoil after POBA, but after serving this purpose, long-term in situ metallic platform injure the vascular wall and sets in chronic inflammation and hyperplasia of the vascular intimal layer. Other vascular manipulation also may result in vessel injury, leading to neointimal hyperplasia.

There are two types of neointimal hyperplasia.

  1. Arterial neointimal hyperplasia secondary to arterial manipulation in endarterectomy or angioplasty. [3]
  2. Venous graft associated neointimal hyperplasia secondary to coronary artery bypass grafting or arteriovenous grafting/ fistula formation. [4]


Vascular wall injury may be due to manipulation by any of the following procedures:

  • Use of angioplasty catheter and balloon inflation during the angioplasty.
  • Use of an embolectomy catheter.
  • Vascular endarterectomy. 
  • Small target veins used in arteriovenous fistula creation. 
  • Coronary vein grafting or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).


  • The patency rate of the venous graft used during CABG is 80% at one year and 60% at five years. A saphenous venous graft (SVG) is more prone to intimal hyperplasia and stenosis than an internal mammary artery graft. However, late-onset occlusion of SVG after five years of grafting is almost always due to neo-atherosclerosis. 
  • Arteriovenous (AV) fistula or graft is used as a vascular access site for hemodialysis in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) on dialysis. Arteriovenous (AV) fistula or graft failure rate varies between 30% to 60% at one year. Recent studies have indicated that neointimal hyperplasia is the most common underlying pathology in 30% to 60% of AV grafts or fistula failures followed by vascular thrombosis.


The events leading to neointimal hyperplasia can be broadly classified into the following:

  • Endothelial dysfunction and activation
  • Platelet activation and thrombus formation
  • Leucocyte recruitment
  • Smooth muscle cell migration and proliferation

The primary pathology is the proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) in the tunica intima layer. The triggering step is endothelial damage or dysfunction (ED) due to vascular injury, which can occur secondary to a vascular wall stretching during balloon angioplasty, vascular manipulation during carotid endarterectomy, or venous graft implantation during arteriovenous fistula formation or coronary bypass grafting. [1] ED leads to endothelial activation and decreases the production of nitrous oxide (NO) due to the dysregulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (ENOS). [5][6] When platelets come in contact with activated endothelial cells, it forms a platelet-rich thrombus. An inflammatory cascade begins at the vascular injury site, and leukocytes demarginate from the bloodstream and reach sub-endothelial thrombus. Oxidative stress promotes the expression of endothelial adhesion molecules, such as vascular cell adhesion molecules, that help recruitment and migration of monocytes into the subendothelial area. [7][2]

Matrix metalloproteinases are key enzymes that cause the breakdown of extracellular matrix proteins, such as collagen and elastin, and facilitate the migration of vascular SMCs across internal elastic lamina in neointimal hyperplasia formation. [8]It is also noted in arteriovenous grafts studies that SMCs can alternately originate from fibroblasts from vascular adventitia or bone marrow progenitor cells. [2][9] Once SMCs migrate at the vascular injury site intimal layer, they go through a phenotypic transition from predominantly contractile to secretory type SMCs.


In both arterial and venous neointimal hyperplasia, there is SMC and fibroblast accumulation in the tunica intima layer with extracellular matrix (ECM) or collagen deposition. On immunohistochemistry studies, vascular samples with neointimal hyperplasia show multi-layered SMCs, which stain positive for alpha-smooth muscle actin, endothelial cells staining positive for anti-von Willebrand factor antibodies, fibroblasts which secrete ECM, lymphocytes, and macrophages. The excessive cellular deposition results in the expansion of the intimal layer and loss of the luminal area. [10] Tunica media layer in arterial neointimal hyperplasia tends to remain thin despite the increased thickness of the intimal layer. This is in contrast to vein graft adaptation, where there is also a concurrent expansion of the tunica media layer. [4][11][12][13]

History and Physical

Neointimal hyperplasia may be associated with recurrence of symptoms such as.

  • Anginal symptoms or acute coronary syndrome for coronary artery venous graft or stenting with critical flow-limiting graft stenosis.
  • AV graft or fistula failure leading to vascular access complication and delayed hemodialysis in ESRD patients on hemodialysis.
  • Post carotid endarterectomy (CEA) restenosis due to neointimal hyperplasia can present with a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke symptoms.


Workup should include the following:

  • Angiography
  • Intravascular ultrasonography
  • Intravascular optical coherence tomography and correlation with histological findings of neointimal hyperplasia
  • Flow Doppler catheters to document flow limitation 
  • Graft surveillance to detect and repair neointimal hyperplasia early
  • Carotid Doppler ultrasonography

Treatment / Management

Pharmacotherapy targeted at different steps of the pathogenesis of neointimal hyperplasia can be used to prevent and treat this condition. Graft surveillance in high-risk patients with serial Doppler ultrasound within the first two years after the vascular intervention can detect and repair neointimal hyperplasia. [10]

  • Platelet activation and thrombus formation: Aspirin, P2Y12 (clopidogrel), glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors (abciximab), heparin, or hirudin targets this step to prevent neointimal hyperplasia.
  • Leucocyte recruitment: Probucol is an antioxidant that prevents neointimal hyperplasia by blocking leukocytes recruitment into the sub-endothelial area of an injured vascular wall.
  • SMC migration and proliferation:
  1. NO deficiency secondary to ED has been linked with the neointimal hyperplasia development. Local NO-based perivascular powder therapy and poly (diol-co-citrate) elastomeric vascular wraps are superior to systemic NO therapies, which have adverse outcomes. [14]
  2. Drug-eluting stents (DES) containing paclitaxel or everolimus also blocks SMC migration and proliferation. DES recently has been used in post-carotid endarterectomy restenosis cases in addition to their well-known use in coronary angioplasty with stenting. [15][16]
  3. Gene therapy targeting SMC migration, proliferation, and NO production have also been studied.
  4. Beta vascular brachytherapy has been proven to reduce neointimal hyperplasia burden after a few months. [17][18]

Differential Diagnosis

The following conditions can present similarly and need to be considered along with neointimal hyperplasia:

  • Neoatherosclerosis
  • Late stent thrombosis


Determination of neointimal characteristics is useful in predicting long-term clinical outcomes. Data suggests that heterogeneous lesions are linked to poor long-term clinical prognoses.


Depending on the organ system involved, vascular insufficiency can lead to the following:

  • The recurrence of angina or acute myocardial infarction.
  • AV fistula or graft failure, which leads to a delay in hemodialysis due to loss of vascular access.
  • Transient ischemic attacks or cerebrovascular accident due to post carotid endarterectomy restenosis or thrombosis.


Multidisciplinary team consultation may be required with the following:

  • Interventional cardiologists
  • Cardiothoracic surgeons
  • Interventional radiologists
  • Vascular surgeons
  • Oncologists
  • Rehabilitation team members

Deterrence and Patient Education

To improve patient outcomes, the key is to prevent this disease process in the first place. This means patient education about the benefits of exercise, smoking discontinuation, eating a healthy diet, and not leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

Atherosclerosis can affect almost any vessel and lead to obstruction of blood flow. To improve patient outcomes, the key is to prevent this disease process in the first place. This means patient education about the benefits of exercise, smoking discontinuation, eating a healthy diet, and not leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Healthcare workers, including the pharmacist and nurse, have to monitor the patient's body weight, lipid levels, blood sugar, and blood pressure regularly. When conservative methods fail to control these parameters, drug therapy may be in order.


[1] Neointimal Hyperplasia in Coronary Vein Grafts: Pathophysiology and Prevention of a Significant Clinical Problem., Bonatti J,Oberhuber A,Schachner T,Zou Y,Hammerer-Lercher A,Mittermair R,Laufer G,, The heart surgery forum, 2004 Jan 1     [PubMed PMID: 14980855]
[2] Roles of bone-marrow-derived cells and inflammatory cytokines in neointimal hyperplasia after vascular injury., Shoji M,Koba S,Kobayashi Y,, BioMed research international, 2014     [PubMed PMID: 24551856]
[3] Analysis of arterial intimal hyperplasia: review and hypothesis., Subbotin VM,, Theoretical biology & medical modelling, 2007 Oct 31     [PubMed PMID: 17974015]
[4] Clinical Trial End Points for Hemodialysis Vascular Access: Background, Rationale, and Definitions., Shenoy S,Allon M,Beathard G,Brouwer-Maier D,Dember LM,Glickman M,Lee C,Litchfield T,Lok C,Huber T,Roy-Chaudhury P,Work J,West M,Wasse H,, Clinical journal of the American Society of Nephrology : CJASN, 2018 Mar 7     [PubMed PMID: 29487092]
[5] Nitric oxide prevents aortic neointimal hyperplasia by controlling macrophage polarization., Lavin B,Gómez M,Pello OM,Castejon B,Piedras MJ,Saura M,Zaragoza C,, Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology, 2014 Aug     [PubMed PMID: 24925976]
[6] Nitric oxide inhibits neointimal hyperplasia following vascular injury via differential, cell-specific modulation of SOD-1 in the arterial wall., Bahnson ES,Koo N,Cantu-Medellin N,Tsui AY,Havelka GE,Vercammen JM,Jiang Q,Kelley EE,Kibbe MR,, Nitric oxide : biology and chemistry, 2015 Jan 30     [PubMed PMID: 25460325]
[7] Role of cAMP-phosphodiesterase 1C signaling in regulating growth factor receptor stability, vascular smooth muscle cell growth, migration, and neointimal hyperplasia., Cai Y,Nagel DJ,Zhou Q,Cygnar KD,Zhao H,Li F,Pi X,Knight PA,Yan C,, Circulation research, 2015 Mar 27     [PubMed PMID: 25608528]
[8] Matrix metalloproteinase inhibition reduces intimal hyperplasia in a porcine arteriovenous-graft model., Rotmans JI,Velema E,Verhagen HJ,Blankensteijn JD,de Kleijn DP,Stroes ES,Pasterkamp G,, Journal of vascular surgery, 2004 Feb     [PubMed PMID: 14743149]
[9] Diao Y,Guthrie S,Xia SL,Ouyang X,Zhang L,Xue J,Lee P,Grant M,Scott E,Segal MS, Long-term engraftment of bone marrow-derived cells in the intimal hyperplasia lesion of autologous vein grafts. The American journal of pathology. 2008 Mar     [PubMed PMID: 18276778]
[10] Therapeutic strategies to combat neointimal hyperplasia in vascular grafts., Collins MJ,Li X,Lv W,Yang C,Protack CD,Muto A,Jadlowiec CC,Shu C,Dardik A,, Expert review of cardiovascular therapy, 2012 May     [PubMed PMID: 22651839]
[11] Advances and new frontiers in the pathophysiology of venous neointimal hyperplasia and dialysis access stenosis., Lee T,Roy-Chaudhury P,, Advances in chronic kidney disease, 2009 Sep     [PubMed PMID: 19695501]
[12] Cellular and morphological changes during neointimal hyperplasia development in a porcine arteriovenous graft model., Li L,Terry CM,Blumenthal DK,Kuji T,Masaki T,Kwan BC,Zhuplatov I,Leypoldt JK,Cheung AK,, Nephrology, dialysis, transplantation : official publication of the European Dialysis and Transplant Association - European Renal Association, 2007 Nov     [PubMed PMID: 17602194]
[13] Mitra AK,Gangahar DM,Agrawal DK, Cellular, molecular and immunological mechanisms in the pathophysiology of vein graft intimal hyperplasia. Immunology and cell biology. 2006 Apr     [PubMed PMID: 16519729]
[14] Serrano MC,Vavra AK,Jen M,Hogg ME,Murar J,Martinez J,Keefer LK,Ameer GA,Kibbe MR, Poly(diol-co-citrate)s as novel elastomeric perivascular wraps for the reduction of neointimal hyperplasia. Macromolecular bioscience. 2011 May 12     [PubMed PMID: 21341372]
[15] Del Giudice C,Pellerin O,Gandini R,Sapoval M, Commentary: drug-coated balloon angioplasty to improve carotid stenting outcomes after postendarterectomy restenosis: fad or an answer to the problem of recurrent restenosis? Journal of endovascular therapy : an official journal of the International Society of Endovascular Specialists. 2015 Apr     [PubMed PMID: 25809365]
[16] Zhou W,Lin PH,Bush RL,Peden EK,Guerrero MA,Kougias P,Lumsden AB, Management of in-sent restenosis after carotid artery stenting in high-risk patients. Journal of vascular surgery. 2006 Feb     [PubMed PMID: 16476606]
[17] Werner M,Scheinert D,Henn M,Scheinert S,Bräunlich S,Bausback Y,Friedenberger J,Schuster J,Hertting K,Piorkowski M,Rosner C,Schmidt A,Ulrich M,Gutberlet M, Endovascular brachytherapy using liquid Beta-emitting rhenium-188 for the treatment of long-segment femoropopliteal in-stent stenosis. Journal of endovascular therapy : an official journal of the International Society of Endovascular Specialists. 2012 Aug     [PubMed PMID: 22891824]
[18] Dheer A,Dutta SK, Intracoronary Radiation. Medical journal, Armed Forces India. 2003 Apr     [PubMed PMID: 27407488]