Chronic stable angina physical examination

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor-In-Chief: Cafer Zorkun, M.D., Ph.D. [2]


Among patients with chronic stable angina, the physical examination may be asymptomatic or characteristically normal. Patients that present with left ventricular dysfunction are associated with a poorer prognosis than patients who do not present with dysfunction. All patients should be examined carefully for the presence of rales and other signs of heart failure. The majority of patients present with history of either, chest pain or discomfort categorized as: typical or atypical. Typical presentation would include pain or discomfort in the front or anterior precordium. Atypical presentation can be more convoluted in presentation and involve a wide range of symptoms. For example, an atypical patient may present with dyspnea instead of chest pain and this is termed an angina equivalent. In addition to the historical presentation of chest pain or discomfort, the patient history should be extensively evaluated to include an assessment of cardiovascular risk factors. Physical examination may be normal or asymptomatic. In some cases, a physical examination may reveal heart failure. Additional findings can be important in understanding the onset of the condition. For instance, the presence of peripheral vascular disease may be associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease (CAD).

Physical Examination

  • The physical examination may be entirely normal in patients with stable angina pectoris.
  • A patient may present with hypertension, a major risk factor for coronary artery disease.
  • Examination of the cardiovascular system during ischemia, however, may reveal:
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Transient third heart sound (S3 - ventricular filling sound) and fourth heart sound (S4 - atrial filling sound)
  • A sustained outward (dyskinetic) systolic movement of the left ventricular apex
  • A murmur of mitral regurgitation
  • Paradoxical splitting of the second heard sound bibasilar lung crackles and chest wall heave
  • The physical examination should also focus on the detection of abnormal findings which might be suggestive of left and right heart failure and of non ischemic causes of angina pectoris (valvular aortic stenosis, cardiomyopathy and pulmonary hypertension).
  • Cardiovascular assessment should also include:
  • Examination of peripheral arterial pulses
  • Evaluation of retinal fundus for vascular changes
  • Screening for risk factors of coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Stigmata of genetic dyslipidemia syndromes such as:
  • Tendon xanthomas
  • Xanthelasma
  • Corneal arcus, particularly in patients under 50 years of age
  • Since the presence of non-coronary atherosclerotic disease increases the likelihood of the presence of coronary artery disease, a careful examination should include attention to:
  • Peripheral arterial pulses
  • Auscultation of the carotid arteries for bruits
  • Palpation of the abdomen for aneurysm

ACC/AHA/ACP–ASIM Guidelines for the Management of Patients With Chronic Stable Angina (DO NOT EDIT)[1]

History and Physical (DO NOT EDIT)[1]

Clinical Evaluation of Patients With Chest Pain (DO NOT EDIT)[1]

Clinical Evaluation in the Initial Diagnosis of SIHD in Patients With Chest Pain

Class I

"1. Patients with chest pain should receive a thorough history and physical examination to assess the probability of IHD before additional testing.(Level of Evidence:C)"

"2. Patients who present with acute angina should be categorized as stable or unstable; patients with UA should be further categorized as being at high, moderate, or low risk.(Level of Evidence:C)"


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Fihn SD, Gardin JM, Abrams J, Berra K, Blankenship JC, Dallas AP; et al. (2012). "2012 ACCF/AHA/ACP/AATS/PCNA/SCAI/STS guideline for the diagnosis and management of patients with stable ischemic heart disease: executive summary: a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association task force on practice guidelines, and the American College of Physicians, American Association for Thoracic Surgery, Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, and Society of Thoracic Surgeons". Circulation. 126 (25): 3097–137. doi:10.1161/CIR.0b013e3182776f83. PMID 23166210.

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