Prinzmetal's angina (variant angina)

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Prinzmetal's angina (variant angina)

Question

What can you tell me about Prinzmetal's angina? How is it different from typical angina?

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Answer

Prinzmetal's angina, also called variant angina, is chest pain (angina) that occurs at rest for no apparent reason — unlike typical angina which usually follows physical exertion. Attacks of Prinzmetal's angina are brief but painful and occur most often at night.

The cause of Prinzmetal's angina is a coronary artery spasm, in which the walls of the artery briefly narrow (constrict). This temporarily reduces or obstructs blood flow to the heart muscle, resulting in chest pain. Coronary artery spasms can be associated with atherosclerosis.

Treatment of Prinzmetal's angina is directed at the underlying cause, such as atherosclerosis, and may include calcium channel blockers. Individuals with Prinzmetal's angina are at increased risk of heart attack and abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia).

Coronary artery spasm

Image of coronary artery spasm

In coronary artery spasm, the muscles in the walls of blood vessels that provide blood flow to the heart (coronary arteries) temporarily constrict. This can reduce or briefly interrupt blood flow to the heart. If the spasm lasts long enough, it can lead to chest pain (angina) and possibly a heart attack.

Last Updated: 05/09/2006
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