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.
Variant angina; Angina - variant; Prinzmetal's angina
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The spasm often occurs in coronary arteries that have not become hardened due to plaque buildup (
A contraction (squeezing) of muscles in the artery wall causes these spasms in the arteries. The contraction occurs in just one area of the artery. The coronary artery may appear normal during
Coronary artery spasm affects approximately 4 out of 100,000 people. About 2% of patients with
Coronary artery spasm occurs most commonly in people who smoke or who have
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Exposure to cold
- Medications that cause narrowing of the blood vessels (vasoconstriction)
- Stimulant drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine
Cocaine use and cigarette smoking can cause severe spasm of the arteries, and can cause the heart to work harder. In many people, coronary artery spasm may occur without any other heart risk factors (such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol).
Review Date: 05/21/2010
Reviewed By: 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.