Mental arithmetic stress testing in patients with coronary artery disease

Giuseppe Specchia, Stefano de Servi, Colomba Falcone, Antonello Gavazzi, Luigi Angoli, Ezio Bramucci, Diego Ardissino, Antonio Mussini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A mental arithmetic stress test was performed by 122 consecutive patients undergoing diagnostic coronary arteriography. Twenty-two patients showed significant ST segment abnormalities during the test (group 1). Of these patients, 20 performed a bicycle exercise test, which was positive in all of them. Seventy patients had a negative mental stress but a positive exercise test (group 2), whereas in 30 patients both tests were negative (group 3). There were no patients with a positive mental stress test and a negative exercise test. Mental stress induced a significant increase in heart rate and systolic blood pressure in the three groups of patients. Group 1 patients, however, achieved higher values of double product during mental stress and had a shorter exercise duration than group 2 and group 3 patients. The extent of coronary artery disease (CAD) was similar in groups 1 and 2, while group 3 patients had a significantly lower prevalence of two or more vessel disease. To investigate the pathogenetic mechanism of mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia, great cardiac vein flow was measured by means of the thermodilution technique in four patients with isolated left anterior descending artery disease, who showed ST segment depression in anterior leads in response to mental stress. In three patients without vasospastic angina the calculated coronary resistance decreased during mental stress, as a result of a normal vasodilatory response to the increased myocardial oxygen consumption induced by the test. By contrast, in one patient with variant angina, coronary resistance increased suggesting coronary vasoconstriction. Our findings demonstrate that mental arithmetic stress testing may induce significant ST segment abnormalities in patients with CAD. Such patients respond to mental stress with a disproportionate increase in myocardial oxygen consumption and have decreased exercise capacity. Although coronary resistance generally decreases during mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia, coronary vasoconstriction may occur in patients with variant angina.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-63
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Heart Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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