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Unstable Angina : Are We Able to Recognize High-Risk Patients?

Chris de Zwaan; Frits W.H.M. Bär; Anton G.M. Gorgels; Hein J.J. Wellens
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From the Division of Cardiology, Academic Hospital Maastricht, University of Limburg, Maastricht, The Netherlands


1997 by the American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 1997;112(1):244-250. doi:10.1378/chest.112.1.244
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Abstract

It is difficult to identify characteristics of patients with unstable angina that are predictive of a high likelihood of developing clinical events. However, several features have been recognized. Patients with a clinical history of previous stable exertional angina symptoms who began to experience rest pain appear to be at risk and tend to have more extensively underlying coronary disease. When the ischemic episodes are accompanied by rales, a new or worsening mitral regurgitation murmur, or hypotension, there is a high likelihood of significant coronary artery disease and one should triage these patients to early cardiac catheterization and prompt revascularization. An angiographic feature that carries a high risk is a lesion in the proximal left anterior descending or in the left main coronary artery. Certain typical ECG patterns are very suggestive for a critical narrowing in these coronary arteries. If chest pain and ST-segment changes recur on vigorous medical management, early invasive evaluation should be strongly considered. Even so, the left ventricular function is very important prognostically. According to serologic tests, the level of C-reactive protein and serum amyloid A protein suggesting that there may be active inflammation predicts an early poor outcome. However, these serologic abnormalities do not have much clinical value. An increased platelet activation and a reduced fibrinolytic capacity play a role in the pathogenesis of unstable angina, but thrombolytic therapy does not improve the prognosis in patients with unstable angina.


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