Abstract In thirty patients with stable angina and positive exercise tests, ambulatory ST segment monitoring was used to record episodes of transient myocardial ischaemia during daily life. All patients had four consecutive days of monitoring and in 20 patients long-term variability was assessed by repeated 48 hour monitoring and exercise testing over 18 months. There were 1934 episodes of rectilinear or downsloping ST-depression (911, 1 mm; 638, 2 mm; 385, >3 mm) in 446 days of recording, of which only 470 (24%) were accompanied by angina. Positron tomography showed evidence of regional myocardial ischaemia during both symptomatic and asymptomatic ST depression. On average, heart rate at the onset of both symptomatic and asymptomatic ST episodes was significantly lower than the rate at the onset of ST depression during exercise testing (98±20·5 vs 124±17 beats/minute). Heart rate rose by more than 10 beats in the minute preceding ST depression in only 23% of episodes. Over 18 months, 8 (40%) patients exhibited marked variability in the number of daily ST episodes. Variability of ST depression was consistently underestimated by symptoms and not reflected by exercise testing. Thus, patients with stable angina showed frequent, variable, and often asymptomatic electrocardiographic evidence of ischaemia. Heart rate increase was not common before myocardial ischaemia, suggesting that, in such patients, transient impairment in coronary supply may be at least as important as excessive increase in demand in the genesis of ischaemia during daily life.