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J Hypertens. 1998 May;16(5):681-8.

Prevalence of episodes of ST-segment depression among mild-to-moderate hypertensive patients in northern Italy: the Cardioscreening Study.

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Centro di Fisiologia Clinica e Ipertensione, University of Milan, Ospedale Maggiore, Italy.



To assess the prevalence of episodes of ST-segment depression in a population of consecutive patients with mild-to-moderate essential hypertension who are free of clinical signs of coronary artery disease.


The study involved 28 Italian centers that enrolled 414 hypertensive patients (aged 50-70 years; diastolic blood pressure > or = 95-115 mmHg or systolic blood pressure > or = 150-220 mmHg, or both, 10 days after withdrawal of medications). Silent myocardial ischemia was assessed by means of exercise stress testing and 48 h Holter monitoring. An ischemic episode was defined as a horizontal or downward sloping ST-segment depression > or = 100 microV, occurring 80 ms after the J point, and lasting for at least 1 min.


Of the 414 patients enrolled, 411 completed the exercise stress test. During the test significant ST-segment depression occurred for 25 patients (6.1%) and all episodes but one were asymptomatic and not associated with arrhythmias. Of the 396 patients for whom we analyzed a 48 h Holter recording, 43 (10.9%) had at least one episode of ST-segment depression and seven of these had also had one during the exercise stress test The median number of episodes per patient was five (range 1-19), median duration was 9 min (range 1-20 min), and the mean amplitude of the ST-segment depression was 190 +/- 180 microV. None of these episodes was associated with symptoms and all of them occurred under resting condition. Patients with (n = 61) and without (n = 335) ST-segment depression during Holter monitoring or exercise stress testing had similar ages (59 +/- 6 versus 58 +/- 6 years) and did not differ for tobacco smoking, plasma lipid levels, blood pressure values and prevalence of echocardiographic left ventricular hypertrophy (57% of patients had left ventricular mass indexes > or = 134 g/m2 for men and > or = 110 g/m2 for women in both groups). Women had a higher prevalence of ST-segment depression than did men during Holter monitoring [32 of 183 (17.5%) versus 11 of 213 (5.2%)], whereas the prevalences of ischemia during the exercise stress test were similar. Female sex was the only significant factor associated with the occurrence of silent myocardial ischemia [odds ratio 2.56 (95% confidence interval 1.40-4.71)].


Our results show that 15% of patients with mild-to-moderate hypertension, who are free of clinical signs of coronary artery disease, experience episodes of ST-segment depression during Holter monitoring or exercise stress testing. Most of these episodes are asymptomatic and are not associated with the severity of hypertension, the presence of left ventricular hypertrophy, and other risk factors for coronary artery disease. Episodes of ST-segment depression are more common for women than they are for men, particularly during Holter monitoring. The early detection of silent myocardial ischemia by Holter monitoring or by the exercise stress test might be useful for the identification of hypertensive patients who should be investigated further and administered a more specific treatment.

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