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J Am Coll Cardiol. 1993 Nov 15;22(6):1598-606.

Scintigraphic and electrocardiographic evidence of silent coronary artery disease in asymptomatic hypertension: a case-control study.

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Department of Medicine, University of California.



This study was conducted to determine the incidence of physiologically significant coronary artery disease in a group of asymptomatic high risk men with essential hypertension and to assess the validity of noninvasive tests in a subset of these patients undergoing coronary arteriography.


Two hundred twenty-six asymptomatic men (mean age 61 +/- 8 years) with essential hypertension and no clinical evidence of coronary artery disease but with at least one additional coronary risk factor were studied prospectively. Fifty age- and risk factor-matched normotensive subjects were evaluated as a control group. After a minimum of 4 days without medication, subjects underwent stress thallium-201 scintigraphy, exercise and 48-h ambulatory electrocardiography, and echocardiography. Coronary angiography was performed in a subset of 34 (40%) of 84 patients with one or more positive test results.


A positive thallium-201 scintigram (18% vs. 6%; odds ratio 3.4, confidence interval 0.95 to 10.8, p = 0.056), exercise electrocardiograms (ECGs) (37% vs. 13%; odds ratio 4.1, confidence interval 1.5 to 11.2, p < 0.003) and ambulatory ECG (15% vs. 0%, p < 0.05) were more common in the hypertensive group than in the control group. In the cohort undergoing coronary angiography, thallium-201 scintigraphy was both sensitive and specific for epicardial atherosclerotic coronary disease (90% and 79%, respectively), but positive exercise and ambulatory ECGs occurred frequently in the absence of significant coronary stenoses. In the 39% of hypertensive patients who had mild to moderate left ventricular hypertrophy, positive exercise and ambulatory ECGs occurred at a higher rate.


These findings suggest that physiologically significant coronary artery disease occurs more frequently in asymptomatic hypertensive men than in comparable normotensive control subjects. In the subgroup undergoing coronary arteriography, reversible scintigraphic defects were both sensitive and specific for diagnosing epicardial coronary artery disease, but exercise and ambulatory ECGs appeared to yield frequent false positive results, especially when left ventricular hypertrophy was present. These results indicate that patients with "silent" coronary artery disease can be identified among high risk hypertensive patients, but the appropriate application of such screening in clinical practice remains to be determined.

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