One hundred eight consecutive patients with proved coronary artery disease and reproducible exercise-induced myocardial ischemia were studied. During repeated exercise testing, 52 patients (Group I) had myocardial ischemia in the absence of pain (silent ischemia) whereas 56 patients (Group II) experienced anginal symptoms in the presence of electrocardiographic signs of ischemia. A puipal test was carried out in all patients using an electrical dental stimulator commonly used in dentistry. Electrical current was delivered in increasing intensity from 10 to 500 mA, and the dental pain threshold and the reaction of the patients to maximal stimulation were determined. During the puipal test, 71.2% of the patients in Group I did not experience pain, even at maximal stimulation (threshold 0), 11.5% were sensitive at threshold I (10 to 200 mA) and 17.3% felt pain at threshold II (210 to 500 mA). In Group 11, 69.7% of the patients complained of dental pain at the low intensity test current (threshold I), 10.7% at threshold II and 19.6% at threshold 0. In Group I, 71.2% of patients did not have discomfort (reaction -), even at maximal stimulation, 21.1% had a mild reaction (reaction +) and 7.7% had an intense painful reaction (reaction ++). In Group II, 80.4% of patients were sensitive to the pulpar test (67.9% reported intense painful sensation at maximal stimulation, 12.5% had a mild reaction); 19.6% of patients had no reaction. The two groups of patients were similar with respect to age, sex and angiographic features. Patients in Group I (silent ischemia) achieved a significantly longer duration of exercise (p <0.01) in the presence of more pronounced ST segment depression (p <0.001) and had a higher rate-pressure product at peak exercise (p <0.01). The significant difference in dental pain threshold (p <0.0005) and reaction (p <0.0005) in patients with and those without anginal symptoms during exercise testing suggests that a generalized, nonsegmental hyposensitivity to pain may partly explain the lack of symptoms in patients with silent myocardial ischemia.
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