Acute effect of cigarette smoking on the coronary circulation: constriction of epicardial and resistance vessels

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1993 Sep;22(3):642-7. doi: 10.1016/0735-1097(93)90170-6.


Objectives: This study was performed to determine the acute effect of cigarette smoking on proximal and distal epicardial conduit and coronary resistance vessels.

Background: Cigarette smoking causes constriction of epicardial arteries and a decrease in coronary blood flow in patients with coronary artery disease, despite an increase in myocardial oxygen demand. The role of changes in resistance vessel tone in the acute coronary hemodynamic effect of smoking has not been examined.

Methods: Twenty-four long-term smokers were studied during cardiac catheterization after vasoactive medications had been discontinued. The effect of smoking one cigarette 10 to 15 mm long on proximal and distal conduit vessel segments was assessed before and immediately after smoking and at 5, 15 and 30 min after smoking (n = 8). To determine the effect of smoking on resistance vessels, coronary flow velocity was measured in a nonobstructed artery with a 3F intracoronary Doppler catheter before and for 5 min after smoking (n = 8). Eight patients were studied without smoking to control for spontaneous changes in conduit arterial diameter (n = 5) and resistance vessel tone (n = 3).

Results: The average diameter of proximal coronary artery segments decreased from 2.56 +/- 0.12 mm (mean +/- SEM) before smoking to 2.41 +/- 0.09 mm 5 min after smoking (-5 +/- 2%, p < 0.05). Distal coronary diameter decreased from 1.51 +/- 0.07 to 1.39 +/- 0.06 mm (-8 +/- 2%, p < 0.01). Marked focal vasoconstriction after smoking was observed in two patients. Coronary diameter returned to baseline by 30 min after smoking. There was no change in vessel diameter in control patients. Despite a significant increase in the heart rate-mean arterial pressure product, coronary flow velocity decreased by 7 +/- 4% (p < 0.05) and coronary vascular resistance increased by 21 +/- 4% (p < 0.01) 5 min after smoking. There was no change in these variables in the control subjects.

Conclusions: Smoking causes immediate constriction of proximal and distal epicardial coronary arteries and an increase in coronary resistance vessel tone, despite an increase in myocardial oxygen demand. These acute coronary hemodynamic effects may contribute to the adverse cardiovascular consequences of cigarette smoking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cardiac Catheterization
  • Chest Pain / diagnostic imaging
  • Chest Pain / epidemiology
  • Chest Pain / physiopathology
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Coronary Circulation / physiology*
  • Coronary Vessels / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laser-Doppler Flowmetry / instrumentation
  • Laser-Doppler Flowmetry / methods
  • Laser-Doppler Flowmetry / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / physiopathology*
  • Time Factors
  • Vascular Resistance / physiology*
  • Vasoconstriction / physiology*