Although unstable angina can be initially controlled with medical therapy in most patients, there is a high incidence of subsequent death, myocardial infarction, or need for coronary bypass surgery to control symptoms. Identification at the time of presentation of the patient likely to do poorly on continued medical therapy would be useful in advising consideration of surgical therapy. Since coronary arterial spasm may have a significant role in the pathophysiology of unstable angina in some patients, the recently developed calcium channel antagonists may therefore be of particular benefit in the medical therapy of unstable angina. One hundred thirty-eight patients were entered into a randomized double-blind study of the efficacy of adding nifedipine to conventional treatment of unstable angina (nitrates and β-blockers) and were followed for 18 months. Of these patients, 104 underwent coronary arteriography. A multivariate Cox's hazard function analysis was applied to variables selected from the history, electrocardiographic (ECG) changes during chest pain, and from scintigraphic and coronary arteriographic data to determine those variables most predictive of response to medical therapy. The percentage of the left ventricular myocardium supplied by vessels with 70% or greater luminal stenosis was the most significant variable in influencing failure of medical therapy defined as sudden death, myocardial infarction, or need for bypass surgery. Whether or not the patient received nifedipine was the second most powerful variable, with the use of nifedipine reducing by half the relative risk of failing medical therapy. These were followed by cigarette smoking and presence of global ST segment changes during ischemia. After 18 months the nifedipine group had fewer patients failing medical therapy (p = .02), with fewer patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery (p < .01). However, nifedipine did not appear to have a preventive effect against myocardial infarction or death. Kaplan-Meier actuarial curves confirmed that medical therapy was significantly less successful in the presence of increasing numbers of significantly stenotic vessels (p = .03). However, nifedipine provided a significant beneficial effect in patients with two or more stenotic vessels (p < .01) and in whom 50% or more of the myocardium was supplied by vessels with 70% or greater stenosis (p = .01). Thus, although patients with advanced obstructive coronary disease have the greatest likelihood of unfavorable outcomes, the addition of nifedipine is of significant benefit. This group can be identified at the time of presentation by diffuse ECG changes accompanying angina and by data obtained from coronary angiography.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
- Physiology (medical)