Objectives: We sought to investigate the mechanism of a mental stress-induced fall in left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) in patients with coronary artery disease.
Background: Mental stress induces a fall in LVEF in a significant proportion of patients with coronary artery disease. This is accompanied by an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and rate-pressure product. Whether the mental stress-induced fall in LVEF is due to myocardial ischemia, altered loading conditions or a combination of both is not clear.
Methods: Left ventricular (LV) function was studied noninvasively by serial equilibrium radionuclide angiocardiography and simultaneous measurement of peak power, a relatively afterload-independent index of LV contractility, in 21 patients with coronary artery disease (17 men, 4 women) and 9 normal subjects (6 men, 3 women) at baseline, during mental stress and during exercise. Peripheral vascular resistance (PVR), cardiac output (CO), arterial and end-systolic ventricular elastance (Ea, Ees,) and ventriculoarterial coupling (V/AC) were also calculated. Patients underwent two types of mental stress-mental arithmetic and anger recall-as well as symptom-limited semisupine bicycle exercise.
Results: Nine patients (43%) had an absolute fall in LVEF of > or = 5% (Group I) in response to at least one of the mental stressors, whereas the remaining patients did not (Group II). Group I and Group II patients were similar in terms of baseline characteristics. Both groups showed a significant but comparable increase in systolic blood pressure (15+/-7 vs. 9+/-10 mm Hg, p=0.12) and a slight increase in heart rate (7+/-4 vs. 8+/-7 beats/min, p=0.6) and a comparable increase in rate-pressure product (2.2+/-0.9 vs. 1.9+/-1.2 beats/min x mm Hg, p=0.6) with mental stress. However, PVR increased in Group I and decreased in Group II (252+/-205 vs. -42+/-230 dynes x s x cm(-5), p=0.006), and CO decreased in Group I and increased in Group II (-0.2+/-0.4 vs. 0.6+/-0.7 liters/min, p=0.02) with mental stress. There was no difference in the change in peak power (p=0.4) with mental stress. With exercise, an increase in systolic blood pressure, heart rate, rate-pressure product and CO and a fall in PVR were similar in both groups. Of the two mental stressors, anger recall resulted in a greater fall in LVEF and a greater increase in diastolic blood pressure. Exercise resulted in a fall in LVEF in 7 patients (33%). However, exercise-induced changes in LVEF and hemodynamic variables were not predictive of mental stress-induced changes in LVEF and hemodynamic variables. Conclusions. Abnormal PVR and Ea responses to mental stress and exercise are observed in patients with a mental stress-induced fall in LVEF. Peripheral vasoconstrictive responses to mental stress contribute significantly toward a mental stress-induced fall in LVEF.