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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Prinzmetal's variant angina

Other Names for this Disease
  • Prinzmetal angina
  • Variant angina
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

I am looking for any information on Prinzmetal's variant angina, including clinical studies. The medicine they have me on just isn't working for me. What treatment options are available?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is Prinzmetal's variant angina?

Prinzmetal's variant angina is characterized by recurrent episodes of chest pain that occur while an individual is at rest.[1] This condition is a form of unstable angina because the episodes do not occur in a predictable pattern. Prinzmetal's variant angina may occur spontaneously, or it may be caused by exposure to cold, emotional stress, alcohol withdrawal, or vasoconstricting medications.[2] The symptoms of this condition usually respond to treatment. Individuals with Prinzmetals' variant angina may have a higher risk for heart attack or arrhythmia.[2]
Last updated: 1/24/2011

What are the symptoms of Prinzmetal's variant angina?

The main symptom of Prinzmetal's variant angina is chest pain (angina) with the following characteristics:[2]

  • Occurs under the chest bone
  • Described as squeezing, constricting, tightness, pressure, crushing
  • Is usually severe and may radiate to the neck, jaw, shoulder, or arm
  • Often occurs at rest
  • Typically occurs at the same time each day, usually between midnight and 8am.
  • Duration of pain is 5 to 30 minutes
  • Pain is relieved by nitroglycerin
  • Loss of consciousness
Last updated: 1/24/2011

What causes Prinzmetal's variant angina?

Prinzmetal's variant angina is caused by coronary artery spasms.[1] A coronary artery spasm is a temporary, abrupt, and focal (restricted to one location) contraction of the muscles in the wall of an artery in the heart.[2] This spasm constricts the artery, slowing or stoping blood flow. A prolonged spasm can cause chest pain, or even a heart attack (myocardial infarction).[3]
Last updated: 1/24/2011

What is the treatment for Prinzmetal's variant angina?

The goal of treatment is to control chest pain and to prevent heart attack. Nitroglycerin or other nitrate medications may be prescribed to relieve chest pain. Calcium-channel blockers may be chronically needed. These medications widen the blood vessels to improve blood and oxygen flow. Medications may also include beta-blockers; however, in some individuals, beta-blockers may be harmful.[2]
Last updated: 1/24/2011

Where can I find information about clinical trials involving Prinzmetal's variant angina?

The U.S. National Institutes of Health, through the National Library of Medicine, developed to provide patients, family members, and members of the public with current information on clinical research studies. Click here to find clinical trials involving variant angina, including Prinzmetal's variant angina. After you click on a study, review its "eligibility" criteria to determine its appropriateness. Use the study’s contact information to learn more. Check this site often for regular updates.
Last updated: 1/24/2011

Who can I contact to find out more about participating in clinical trials?

You can contact the Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison (PRPL) Office at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). We recommend calling the toll-free number listed below to speak with a specialist who can help you determine if you or someone you know is eligible for any clinical trials.  

Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison Office
NIH Clinical Center
Bethesda, Maryland 20892-2655
Toll-free: 800-411-1222
Fax: 301-480-9793
Web site:

Last updated: 6/1/2016

Where can I find general information about clinical trials?

If you are interested in enrolling in a clinical trial, you can find helpful general information on clinical trials at the following Web page.

A tutorial about clinical trials that can also help answer your questions can be found at the following link from the National Library of Medicine:
Last updated: 10/17/2013

Where can I find transportation and lodging resources for clinical trials participants?

Resources on many charitable or special-fare flights to research and treatment sites and low-cost hospitality accommodations for outpatients and family members, as well as ambulance services, are listed on the Web site of the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD), part of the National Institutes of Health.
Last updated: 10/17/2013

Other Names for this Disease
  • Prinzmetal angina
  • Variant angina
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.