Endothelial dysfunction in the coronary artery contributes to the pathogenesis of variant angina, and endothelial dysfunction in variant angina may be associated with increased oxidant stress in the systemic arteries. We investigated whether endothelial dysfunction exists in the peripheral artery in patients with variant angina, and also examined the effect of vitamin C, an antioxidant, on endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Using high-resolution ultrasound, both the flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD, endothelium-dependent vasodilation) and sublingual nitroglycerin-induced vasodilation (NTG-D, endothelium-independent vasodilation) in the brachial artery were measured in 28 patients with variant angina and 24 control subjects who had normal coronary arteries.
FMD was significantly impaired in patients with variant angina compared with control subjects (1.8 +/- 2.2% vs 6.4 +/- 4.9%, p <0.001). FMD and NTG-D before and after intravenous administration of either vitamin C or placebo were measured in 17 patients with variant angina. FMD significantly improved after the administration of vitamin C (from 2.2 +/- 2.4% to 4.5 +/- 1.6%, p <0.01), but not after administration of the placebo (from 2.0 +/- 2.6% to 1.7 +/- 1.9%). The improved FMD due to vitamin C in patients with variant angina, however, was not significantly different from that in the control subjects. NTG-D was not significantly different between patients with variant angina and control subjects (14.0 +/- 7.8% vs 13.6 +/- 5.0%) and it was also not affected by vitamin C. In conclusion: (1) FMD in the brachial artery is impaired in patients with variant angina, and (2) the acute administration of the antioxidant, vitamin C, was observed to reverse this endothelial dysfunction. These findings support the theory that the systemic inactivation of nitric oxide due to oxidative stress might exist in patients with variant angina.