Coronary microvascular dysfunction is highly prevalent in women with chest pain in the absence of coronary artery disease: results from the NHLBI WISE study

Am Heart J. 2001 May;141(5):735-41. doi: 10.1067/mhj.2001.114198.


Background: Chest pain in the absence of obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD) is common in women; it is frequently associated with debilitating symptoms and repeated evaluations and may be caused by coronary microvascular dysfunction. However, the prevalence and determinants of microvascular dysfunction in these women are uncertain.

Methods: We measured coronary flow velocity reserve (coronary velocity response to intracoronary adenosine) to evaluate the coronary microvasculature and risk factors for atherosclerosis in 159 women (mean age, 52.9 years) with chest pain and no obstructive CAD. All women were referred for coronary angiography to evaluate their chest pain as part of the Women's Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation (WISE) study.

Results: Seventy-four (47%) women had subnormal (<2.5) coronary flow velocity reserve suggestive of microvascular dysfunction (mean, 2.02 +/- 0.38); 85 (53%) had normal reserve (mean, 3.13 +/- 0.64). Demographic characteristics, blood pressure, ventricular function, lipid levels, and reproductive hormone levels were not significantly different between women with normal and those with abnormal microvascular function. Postmenopausal hormone use within 3 months was significantly less prevalent among those with microvascular dysfunction (40% vs 60%, P =.032). Age and number of years past menopause correlated with flow velocity reserve (r = -0.18, P =.02, and r = -0.30, P <.001, respectively). No significant associations were identified between flow velocity reserve and lipid and hormone levels, blood pressure, and left ventricular ejection fraction.

Conclusions: Coronary microvascular dysfunction is present in approximately one half of women with chest pain in the absence of obstructive CAD and cannot be predicted by risk factors for atherosclerosis and hormone levels. Therefore, the diagnosis of coronary microvascular dysfunction should be considered in women with chest pain not attributable to obstructive CAD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Cardiac Catheterization
  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Chest Pain / blood
  • Chest Pain / diagnosis
  • Chest Pain / epidemiology
  • Chest Pain / physiopathology*
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Coronary Artery Disease / diagnosis
  • Coronary Artery Disease / etiology
  • Coronary Circulation*
  • Coronary Vessels / physiopathology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Dobutamine
  • Echocardiography
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Microcirculation / physiopathology
  • Postmenopause / blood
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors


  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Dobutamine
  • Cholesterol