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Am J Cardiol. 1989 Feb 1;63(5):286-90.

Comparison of verapamil versus propranolol therapy in syndrome X.

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Institute of Patologia Medica, University of Bologna, Italy.


The effects of oral verapamil, 320 mg daily, propranolol, 120 to 160 mg daily, and placebo were compared in 16 patients presenting with transient myocardial ischemia without evidence of coronary atherosclerosis or vasospasm on angiography (syndrome X). Testing was done according to a randomized double-blind crossover placebo-controlled trial consisting of 3 consecutive 7-day treatment periods with verapamil or propranolol or placebo. Patients underwent continuous 48-hour electrocardiographic monitoring before therapy (run-in phase) and during the last 2 days of each treatment period. A total of 391 episodes of diagnostic (greater than or equal to 0.15 mV) ST depression was recorded during the trial. Of these, 23 were symptomatic. None of the episodes occurred while the patients were asleep, 25% during exercise, 35% during minimal physical activity and 40% at rest. Rest included activities demanding mental arousal (conversation, reading or watching television). Heart rate at the onset of ST depression was higher (greater than or equal to 10 beats/min) than that observed in the 5 minutes preceding ischemia in 95% of the episodes. In the group as a whole, the average number of ischemic episodes per 24 hours was significantly reduced during propranolol therapy compared with placebo (0.7 +/- 0.6 vs 3.9 +/- 1.8; p less than 0.0005). No significant differences were seen during verapamil treatment (3.4 +/- 1.7 vs 3.9 +/- 1.8). It is concluded that transient myocardial ischemia in syndrome X is mostly precipitated by an increase in oxygen consumption, presumably due to a heightened sympathetic activity. Accordingly, beta blockers may represent the first line of treatment.

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