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Thirty-six patients with angina were investigated by treadmill exercise testing and coronary angiography prior to coronary artery surgery. Severity of angina was judged by interview and self-assessment visual analogue scale and all patients were psychiatrically assessed. Further physical and psychiatric assessments were made at 3 and 6 months postoperatively. Eleven patients (31%) had significant psychiatric morbidity preoperatively and these had worse symptom scores and exercise tolerance compared with non-psychiatric cases, despite equivalent coronary angiographic findings and left ventricular function. Post-operatively, exercise tolerance improved equally in both groups but psychiatric cases remained significantly more symptomatic. Psychiatric morbidity remained unchanged throughout the study. We conclude that almost one third of patients with severe angina have psychiatric morbidity which is associated with a poor symptomatic response to coronary artery surgery, despite objective improvement in exercise tolerance. Ways of improving the symptomatic response to surgery in patients with coexisting psychiatric morbidity should be studied.