1. Nifedipine is used in patients with stable angina of effort and any resulting change in symptoms is attributed to several effects of nifedipine. However, there have been indications in such patients that one effect of nifedipine could be an increase in the severity of myocardial ischaemia, and the present report involves a trial the results of which could explain this effect.
2. In the present trial, the effect of nifedipine on myocardial ischaemia was assessed by using the maximal ST/heart rate slope. This slope was used as an index of myocardial ischaemia because, in our hands in patients with angina, an increase or a decrease in the value of the slope respectively indicated an increase or a decrease in the severity of myocardial ischaemia as assessed by coronary arteriography.
3. The maximal ST/heart rate slope was obtained at least twice in each of 23 patients with stable angina, with and without nifedipine; two patients were examined twice and three other patients were examined after an increased dose. Nifedipine resulted in an increase in the slope in 24 of the 28 comparisons, no change in three and a decrease in one comparison; there was a statistically significant (P < 0.005; n = 28; paired t-test) increase in the maximal ST/heart rate slope. A further increase in the slope was obtained by increasing the dose of nifedipine in two out of three patients.
4. The increase in the maximal ST/heart rate slope occurred in the absence of any effect of nifedipine on the initial level of the ST segment.
5. It is concluded that nifedipine therapy in the patients with stable angina caused increases in the maximal ST/heart rate slope, suggesting an increase in the severity of myocardial ischaemia.