Coronary artery spasm

Alternative Names

Variant angina; Angina – variant; Prinzmetal’s angina

Definition of Coronary artery spasm

Coronary artery spasm is a temporary, sudden narrowing of one of the coronary arteries (the arteries that supply blood to the heart). The spasm slows or stops blood flow through the artery and starves part of the heart of oxygen-rich blood.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The spasm often occurs in coronary arteries that have not become hardened due to plaque buildup (). However, it also can occur in arteries with plaque buildup.


Spasm may be “silent” — without symptoms — or it may result in or angina. If the spasm lasts long enough, it may even cause a heart attack.

Signs and tests

Tests to diagnose coronary artery spasm may include:


The goal of treatment is to control chest pain and prevent a heart attack. A medicine called nitroglycerin can relieve an episode of pain.

Expectations (prognosis)

Coronary artery spasm is a chronic condition. However, treatment usually helps control symptoms.


David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. – 5/21/2010

Coronary artery spasm
Artery cut section

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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