Despite widespread use of treadmill stress in the detection of coronary disease, detailed information relating the important features of coronary pathoanatomy to the ischemic response noted on the electrocardiogram is lacking. Accordingly, 91 consecutive patients undergoing graded maximal exercise tests (MEXT) who were found to have clinical stenosis (≥ 75 per cent luminal narrowing) of at least one of the three major coronary arteries on coronary arteriography were evaluated. Positive MEXT was defined as ≥ 0.1 mV horizontal or downsloping S-T segment depression ≥ 0.08 second beyond J point. Over-all sensitivity of positive MEXT was 59 of 91 (65 per cent) patients; 11 of 26 (42 per cent) with single vessel stenosis, 20 of 30 (66 per cent) with two vessel disease and 28 of 35 (80 per cent) with three vessel disease. In patients with two vessel disease, the frequency (p < 0.05) of positive MEXT was greater in those with (15 of 21; 71 per cent) than in those without (five of nine; 55 per cent) stenosis of the left anterior descending artery. Concerning the site of intravessel stenosis, the frequency of positive MEXT was greater (p < 0.05) with stenosis proximal to the left anterior descending artery in patients with one vessel disease. Quantification of total numbers of intra- and intervessel stenoses revealed 2.7 stenoses in the 59 patients with positive MEXT in contrast (p < 0.01) to 1.9 in 32 patients with negative MEXT. Similarly, graded luminal narrowing index of severity of total stenoses per patient was 9.9 in those with positive MEXT compared (p < 0.01) to 6.1 in those with negative MEXT. The poststenotic myocardial perfusion index, estimated by graded distal vessel opacification per major vessel disease, was only 1.5 in those with positive MEXT contrasted (p < 0.01) to 2.4 in those with negative MEXT. These data indicate that sensitivity of positive MEXT in patients with coronary disease is most closely determined by the number of major coronary vessels involved, the total number of major vessels stenosed, the severity of total stenoses and poststenotic distal vessel perfusion. Less important factors are the precise site of intravessel stenosis and the specific major coronary artery involved, although stenosis proximal to the left anterior descending artery favored positive MEXT. Unimportant variables were the quality of collateral vessels, ventricular function and prior inferior infarction. Angina occurred more frequently in those with positive MEXT, and marked degree of positive MEXT indicated stenosis proximal to the left anterior descending artery.
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