The incremental prognostic value of pharmacological stress echo over exercise electrocardiography in women with chest pain of unknown origin

Eur Heart J. 2001 Jan;22(2):145-52. doi: 10.1053/euhj.2000.2321.


Aims: The value of exercise electrocardiography in evaluating women with suspected coronary artery disease is limited. Conversely, stress echocardiography is effective for both diagnostic and prognostic purposes in females. The purpose of the study was to determine the relative prognostic value of exercise electrocardiography and pharmacological stress echocardiography in a cohort of women with chest pain of unknown origin, in order to verify whether criteria could be established for the daily non-invasive evaluation of such a low-risk profile population.

Methods and results: Exercise electrocardiography and pharmacological stress echocardiography (171 dipyridamole, 73 dobutamine) were performed in 244 women (age 60+/-10 years) with chest pain and known coronary artery disease. A positive result of exercise electrocardiography (ST-segment shift > or =1 mm at 80 ms after the J point) was detected in 95 patients; a positive result of stress echocardiography (new regional wall motion abnormalities) was observed in 33 patients. During follow-up (36+/-18 months), two deaths, five infarctions, seven unstable anginas, and 11 coronary revascularizations occurred. Using Cox analysis, the positive result of stress echocardiography (odds ratio=40.1) alone, was independently related to hard cardiac events (death, infarction). With spontaneous cardiac events (death, infarction, and unstable angina) as end-points, the multivariate prognostic predictors were a positive result of stress echocardiography (odds ratio=37.0), a family history of coronary artery disease (odds ratio=4.1), typical chest pain (odds ratio=3.7), and a positive exercise electrocardiography result with a rate-pressure product < or =20 000 (odds ratio=3.5). By adopting an interactive stepwise procedure, the prognostic value of stress echocardiography was incremental to that of clinical and exercise electrocardiography data. Nevertheless, the negative result of exercise electrocardiography and pharmacological stress predicted a very high and comparable (P=ns) 24-month survival rate when both hard and spontaneous cardiac events were taken as end-points.

Conclusions: In women with chest pain, stress echocardiography is a strong and independent prognostic indicator, incremental to that shown by exercise electrocardiography. However, the two tests have a similar high negative predictive value in this population. Therefore, exercise electrocardiography has to be considered the initial approach and the only test when the result is negative, whereas stress echocardiography is warranted in selected conditions, including those in women with uninterpretable electrocardiograms, those unable to exercise maximally, and those with an ambiguous or ischaemic response to exercise electrocardiography.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chest Pain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Dipyridamole
  • Dobutamine
  • Echocardiography / methods
  • Electrocardiography
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Ischemia / diagnosis
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Analysis


  • Dobutamine
  • Dipyridamole