The role of basal parasympathetic tone in reducing the heart rate and causing electrocardiographic (ECG) changes during right coronary angioplasty was evaluated in 19 patients with angina pectoris. To measure parasympathetic tone, time and frequency domain parameters of heart rate variability were assessed using 24 h of ambulatory ECG data recorded before angioplasty. There was an age-dependent reduction in heart rate. However, no parameters of heart rate variability were responsible for the changes in heart rate. In contrast, the degree of ST segment elevation during angioplasty correlated significantly with the high-frequency component of heart rate variability. Therefore, the increased parasympathetic tone, as assessed by spectral analysis, may augment the early ST segment elevation induced by right coronary occlusion.