Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) is a relatively rare and poorly understood condition. The demographics of SCAD differ markedly from that of typical atherosclerotic heart attacks, in that most SCAD patients are healthy young women who do not have conventional risk factors for heart disease.

The Mayo Clinic SCAD Research Program was created in response to data collection and a research agenda initiated by SCAD survivors via social networking. Our study population is the largest known SCAD registry in the world. Active recruitment continues via social media, physician referrals and other methods.

The prevalence, causes, prognosis, recurrence rate and optimal management of SCAD are uncertain, and there is still little evidence available to guide medical professionals caring for SCAD patients. Even fewer accessible and reliable sources of information are available to patients and families. Although work published by Mayo Clinic SCAD experts has been practice-changing, much remains to be learned.

The overarching goal of SCAD research at Mayo Clinic is to better characterize the pathophysiology and genetic basis of SCAD and guide optimal treatments. The research program continually builds upon its preliminary work and findings and its clinical expertise. Through cross-disciplinary collaboration, Mayo researchers seek to inspire hope and to contribute to the health and well-being of SCAD patients through integrated clinical practice, education and research.

In close collaboration with patients and research participants, the SCAD research team hopes to generate new knowledge that will provide SCAD patients, their families and their health care providers with answers to the fundamental and critical questions that must be addressed to confidently guide decisions and deliver optimal health care.


The SCAD Research Program was initiated by Sharonne N. Hayes, M.D., in response to activism from online patient communities. The team of principal investigators comprises Dr. Hayes, who specializes in cardiovascular diseases; Rajiv Gulati, M.D., Ph.D., who focuses on interventional cardiology; and Timothy M. Olson, M.D., who specializes in cardiovascular genetics.


The Mayo Clinic SCAD registry includes thorough demographic information and exhaustive clinical data, including patient-centered outcomes, for hundreds of participants with angiographically confirmed SCAD. Additional participants have been screened, had their SCAD diagnosis confirmed, and formally consented to the study, but are missing key data. The research team continues to work to complete these patients' records.

The SCAD Research Program has enrolled almost three times the originally estimated number of participants, which had been based on historical prevalence data, demonstrating that SCAD is not so much a rare condition as a severely underdiagnosed one.


The DNA and plasma biobank is comprised of samples from approximately 400 SCAD patients and nearly 200 of their parents. From these samples, the research team has performed DNA exome sequencing on about 70 trios of SCAD patients and both of their parents, and one quartet of four family members. Genetic SCAD research is aimed at identifying inherited and spontaneous mutations that underlie SCAD.

Find out more:

  • History — The SCAD Research Program has a unique history, as it arose out of an online community of patients who experienced this life-threatening condition.
  • Focus areas — Current areas of research in the SCAD Research Program include genetic analysis, evaluation of extracoronary vascular abnormalities such as fibromuscular dysplasia, coronary artery imaging, and ties between SCAD and mental health.
  • Questions and answers — Information is available regarding how the SCAD Research Program operates, what to expect when participating, and privacy and security concerns.