Objectives: In a prospective, randomized study with an 8-week follow-up period, we evaluated the efficacy of spinal cord stimulation on exercise capacity and quality of life in patients with intractable angina.
Background: Despite important achievements in therapy for ischemic heart disease, there remain patients with intractable symptoms of angina. In uncontrolled observations, several investigators have reported beneficial effects of spinal cord stimulation as an additional therapy for patients with angina pectoris.
Methods: Seventeen patients were randomly assigned to the treatment (implantation within 2 weeks, eight patients) or control (implantation after 8 weeks, nine patients) group. Assessment of exercise capacity was performed by treadmill exercise testing. Quality of life was evaluated by daily and social activity scores and recording sublingual glyceryl trinitrate intake and angina pectoris attacks in a diary. After the 8-week study period, the control group also received the spinal cord stimulation device, and all patients were followed up for 12 months.
Results: The treatment but not the control group demonstrated a significant increase in exercise duration (p < 0.02), rate-pressure product (p < 0.03) and time to angina (p < 0.04), with a decrease in ST segment depression (p < 0.05). This was associated with an increase in daily life (p < 0.008) and social activity (p < 0.005) scores and a reduction in glyceryl trinitrate intake (p < 0.004) and episodes of angina pectoris (p < 0.003). During the 1-year follow-up, improvement in all quality of life variables was linear for the entire group compared with baseline. The time to angina, exercise duration and ST segment depression showed a second-order trend.
Conclusions: Spinal cord stimulation significantly improves exercise capacity and quality of life. On the basis of an increase in exercise capacity and rate-pressure product, the mechanism by which spinal cord stimulation acts may be related to improved oxygen supply to the heart combined with an analgesic effect.