Heterogeneity of microvascular dysfunction in women with chest pain not attributable to coronary artery disease: implications for clinical practice

Am Heart J. 2003 Apr;145(4):628-35. doi: 10.1067/mhj.2003.95.


Background: Women with chest pain in the absence of obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD) frequently have coronary microvascular dysfunction and inducible myocardial ischemia. Microvascular dysfunction is commonly diagnosed by demonstrating abnormal flow reserve in a single coronary artery during angiography. Therefore, diagnostic accuracy is dependent on homogeneity of microvascular dysfunction in the myocardium.

Methods: In the Women's Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation (WISE), 34 women with chest pain and no significant CAD and 9 female control subjects underwent 13N-NH3 positron emission tomography to measure adenosine-induced changes in myocardial perfusion (ie, coronary flow reserve [CFR]). Flow reserve was correlated among the left anterior descending (LAD), circumflex (LCx), and right (RCA) coronary artery distributions.

Results: The mean CFR in the LAD, LCx, and RCA was 2.85 +/- 1.35, 2.58 +/- 0.94, and 3.24 +/- 1.42, respectively. Concordance in the classification of microvascular function as normal (CFR > or =2.5) versus abnormal was present in the LAD and RCA, LAD and LCx, and RCA and LCx distributions in only 71.8%, 66.7%, and 61.6% of patients, respectively. There was a modest degree of correlation of CFR between the LAD and RCA (r = 0.79, P <.001), LAD and LCx (r = 0.61, P <.001), and LCx and RCA (r = 0.57, P <.001). Comparison of CFR in the 3 coronary arteries simultaneously in all patients demonstrated that the LCx had values that were significantly lower than the RCA and LAD distributions.

Conclusion: Substantial discordance of classification of microvascular function among coronary artery distributions in women with chest pain and no CAD suggests that microvascular dysfunction is distributed heterogeneously in the myocardium. Assessment of CFR in a single coronary artery during cardiac catheterization may not provide an accurate assessment of the coronary microcirculation in women with chest pain not attributable to CAD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chest Pain / diagnostic imaging
  • Chest Pain / physiopathology*
  • Coronary Circulation / physiology*
  • Coronary Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Microcirculation / physiology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Adenosine