Factors for heterogeneous outcomes of angina and myocardial ischemia with non-obstructive coronary atherosclerosis

Francesco Radico, Augusto Di Castelnuovo, Alberto Aimo, Marco Zimarino, Juhani Knuuti, Serena Rossi, Luigi Emilio Pastormerlo, Luc Zyw, Enrico Orsini, Licia Iacoviello, Danilo Neglia, Michele Emdin, Giovanni de Gaetano, Raffaele De Caterina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Absence of obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD) in patients with angina is common, but its prognosis debated. We investigated outcomes of such patients to identify predictors of cardiovascular events.

METHODS: We selected 1,014 patients with angina, evidence of myocardial ischemia at the electrocardiogram (ECG) exercise test or imaging stress tests, and non-obstructive CAD (absence of lumen diameter reduction ≥50%) at coronary angiography between 1999 and 2015. 1,905 age- and risk factors-matched asymptomatic subjects served as "real-world" comparators. The primary endpoint was the occurrence of all-cause death or myocardial infarction.

RESULTS: At 6-years median follow-up (IQR 3-9 years), the primary endpoint occurred in 53 patients (5.5%, 0.92/100 person-years). Besides similar event rates compared with asymptomatic subjects (hazard ratio, HR 0.85, 95% CI 0.62-1.15, P = 0.28), the index population showed a very heterogeneous prognosis. Patients with non-obstructive CAD (HR 1.85, 95% CI 1.02-3.37, P = 0.04, compared with "normal" coronary arteries) and with ischemia at imaging tests (HR 2.11, 95% CI 1.07-4.14, P = 0.03, compared with ischemia detected only at the ECG exercise test) were at higher risk, and those with both these components showing even >10-fold event rates as compared with the absence of both. 325 patients (34%) continued to experience angina, 69 (7.2%) underwent repeat coronary angiography, and 14 (1.5%) had a consequent coronary revascularization for atherosclerosis progression.

CONCLUSION: Apart from impaired quality of life, angina without obstructive CAD has an overall benign but very heterogeneous prognosis. Non-obstructive CAD and myocardial ischemia at imaging tests both confer a higher risk. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-206
Number of pages10
JournalJ. Intern. Med. (GBR)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


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