The haemodynamic response to myocardial ischaemia in patients with variant angina during ambulatory activity is unknown. Ambulatory pulmonary artery pressure monitoring with a transducer tipped catheter and simultaneous frequency modulated electrocardiograms was used to assess changes in left ventricular function in five male patients (mean age 51.8 years) during variant angina; four patients had coronary artery stenosis and one had normal coronary arteries. Two hundred and seventy hours of ambulatory recordings were analysed. Twenty episodes (12 painful, 8 silent) of ST segment change greater than 1 mm occurred. Episodes tended to occur more frequently in the early morning hours. Six episodes of painful ST elevation were associated with a rise in pulmonary artery diastolic pressure. In the remaining episodes ST segment elevation was of shorter duration and there was no rise in pulmonary artery diastolic pressure. Pain was usually a late feature. Silent ST segment elevation occurred at rest and pulmonary artery diastolic pressure increased in all but one episode. Silent exertional ST segment depression was associated with a greater increase in pulmonary artery diastolic pressure than that seen during ST segment elevation. ST segment depression preceded or followed ST segment elevation in two episodes. The onset of ST segment elevation nearly always preceded the onset of a rise in pulmonary artery diastolic pressure. Ergometrine maleate provocation produced a rise in pulmonary artery diastolic pressure in three patients. In one there was no response to 1000 micrograms but spontaneous episodes of ST segment elevation were recorded during ambulatory monitoring. Treadmill exercise resulted in both ST segment elevation and depression with a similar haemodynamic response during both types of electrocardiographic change. When there is important coronary artery disease in two or more vessels ST segment changes may occur in different territories during treadmill exercise and during spontaneous episodes. Ambulatory pulmonary artery diastolic pressure monitoring is a useful technique for the investigation of variant angina.
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