Prinzmetal's angina

Am J Crit Care. 2004 Jul;13(4):350-4.


Prinzmetal's angina, often referred to as "variant" angina, is a temporary increase in coronary vascular tone (vasospasm) causing a marked, but transient reduction in luminal diameter. This coronary vasospastic state is usually focal at a single site and can occur in either a normal or diseased vessel. Patients are predominantly younger women who may not have the classical cardiovascular risk factors (except for cigarette use). PVA has been associated with vasospastic disorders such as Raynaud's phenomenon and migraine headaches. Arrhythmias are common and may be life threatening especially when the effects of vasospasm are seen in those ECG leads that reflect the potential variations of the epicardial surface of the left ventricle. Endothelial dysfunction has been considered as primarily responsible for PVA. The diagnosis is made by observing transient ST-segment elevation during the attack of angina. Since PVA is not a "demand"- induced symptom, but rather a supply (vasospastic) abnormality, exercise treadmill stress testing is of no value in the diagnosis of PVA. The most sensitive and specific test for PVA is the administration of ergonovine intravenously. Fifty micrograms at 5-minute intervals is given until a positive result or a maximum dose of 400 microg has been administered. When positive, the symptoms and associated ST-segment elevation should be present. Nitroglycerin rapidly reverses the effects of ergonovine if refractory spasm occurs. Medical therapy classically employs vasodilator drugs, which include nitrates and calcium channel blockers. The prognosis is good when there is no significant coronary artery stenosis. Treatment of associated coronary atherosclerosis in elderly patients with PVA is advised. When PVA is associated with coronary atherosclerosis, the prognosis is determined by the severity of the underlying disease. beta-Blockers and large doses of aspirin are contraindicated in PVA.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Angina Pectoris, Variant / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electrocardiography, Ambulatory / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Time Factors