The influence of the Valsalva maneuver (VM) on myocardial ischemia was evaluated in 24 patients with coronary heart disease. Clinical and hemodynamic responses to the VM were studied during acute ischemia manifested by angina pectoris with transient left ventricular (LV) dysfunction and compared with responses during nonischemic intervals.
In the absence of evidence for acute ischemia (angina and increased LV end-diastolic pressure), six patients had abnormal hemodynamic responses to the VM. Five had lack of systolic pressure overshoot and in one, systolic pressure did not decline during straining. When the VM was performed during an ischemic episode, 14 patients had abnormal responses (12 with lack of overshoot in phase IV and two with lack of systolic pressure decline in phase II). In 18 patients a prompt decline in LV end-diastolic pressure occurred with the disappearance of angina during the VM. These changes uniformly occurred during the latter part of straining (VM phase II) as cardiac size and systolic pressure declined. No adverse effects occurred when a VM was performed during acute ischemia.
Our observations suggest that the VM abruptly reduces determinants of cardiac oxygen demand, relieving acute ischemia without harmful effects.