What is coronary spasm?

Chest pain is a common symptom of coronary artery disease. However, people without fixed, severe coronary blockages also can have chest pain due coronary spasm.


During coronary spasm, the coronary arteries constrict or spasm on and off, causing temporary lack of blood supply to the heart muscle (ischemia).

Coronary artery disease causes narrowing in one or more of the coronary arteries. You can have coronary spasm even without significant disease. However, most patients with coronary spasm have at least mild coronary artery disease.

Symptoms of coronary spasm

Symptoms of typical coronary artery disease include pain, tightness, burning or pressure in the chest due to a major blockage in one or more arteries. Pain typically occurs during exertion (physical activity, eating, extreme stress, exposure to cold).

However, with coronary spasm (also called "variant angina" or "Prinzmetal angina"), angina is not as typical. It usually occurs while you're resting and can wake you from sleep. The pain also can occur with exertion and be severe. You may pass out during pain.

Episodes usually last less than 15 minutes. They can occur a few times yearly, a few times daily or with variable frequency.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/14/2019.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy