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We sought to test the response of the coronary microcirculation to α-adrenoceptor blockade in patients with syndrome X (angina, ischemia-like stress electrocardiogram, and a normal coronary arteriogram). The response of the microcirculation was assessed by quantification of coronary vasodilator reserve (the ratio of hyperemic to resting myocardial blood flow). We investigated 28 patients with syndrome X [18 women, age 54.4 (7.6) years]. Myocardial blood flow was measured at rest and after dipyridamole by using positron emission tomography with H215O. The measurements were made before and after treatment for 10 days with doxazosin (1 mg o.d. for 3 days, followed by 2 mg o.d. for 7 days) or a matched placebo, similarly administered. Patients were randomized to α1-blockade or to placebo in double-blind fashion. No significant differences were demonstrable between syndrome X patients treated with doxazosin and those receiving placebo, with respect to resting myocardial blood flow, myocardial blood flow after dipyridamole, or coronary vasodilator reserve (the ratio of the latter two). In addition, no relations were demonstrable among myocardial blood flow, coronary vasodilator reserve, development of chest pain after dipyridamole, or development of ischemia-like ECG changes. Doxazosin had no effect on the perception of chest pain after dipyridamole. No differences were found between the effects of α1-blockade with doxazosin or those of placebo with respect to myocardial blood flow in syndrome X. The values obtained for myocardial blood flow and coronary vasodilator reserve for the patients were within the normal range. The data do not support the case for α1-mediated vasoconstriction having an etiologic role in the chest pain of syndrome X.