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Is there a role for provocation testing to diagnose coronary artery spasm?

Spontaneous coronary artery spasm is an important cause of morbidity both in patients with coronary artery disease and in those with variant angina. A number of pharmacological agents have been identified which can provoke coronary artery spasm in susceptible patients. The role of provocation testing in the clinical diagnosis of coronary spasm is controversial. This is reflected by variations in the clinical use of provocation testing between specialist cardiac centres. Provocation testing appears to be a sensitive method of identifying patients with variant angina and active disease but such patients can often be diagnosed clinically. The specificity is less clear. There is little evidence that altering patient therapy on the basis of a positive test modifies prognosis. There may be a role for provocation testing in rare patients with refractory disease to identify a target site for coronary stenting. A more widespread use of these tests in patients with undiagnosed chest pain syndromes would not currently be recommended.

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