Drug treatment before angioplasty or stent placement not beneficial for heart attack patients

A common practice for improving outcomes in patients with sudden heart attack actually offers no benefit and could cause harm, according to a review of randomised trials published online today (Tuesday February 14, 2006) by The Lancet.

Despite the lack of evidence for its safety and effectiveness, many doctors believe the practice of giving patients with sudden ST-elevation* heart attack drugs before undergoing emergency revascularisation procedures (angioplasty or stent placement**) improves outcome. However, preliminary studies have suggested this practice confers no benefit.

To investigate the effect of pre-intervention drug treatment, Ellen Keeley (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA) and colleagues reviewed data from 17 trials comparing the outcomes for ST-elevation heart attack patients assigned the drug based procedure before angioplasty/stent placement (2237) and those assigned angioplasty/stent placement alone (2267). The investigators found that more of the patients who received drugs prior to their intervention died than those who did not receive medication (106 versus 78). Pre-intervention drugs also increased the risk of non-fatal heart attack, bleeding, stroke, and the need for repeat revascularisation treatment. These increased rates were mainly seen when the pharmacological treatment was a drug that dissolved clots (thrombolytic therapy).

Dr Keeley states: "Drug facilitated angioplasty or stent placement offers no benefit over primary intervention in ST-elevation heart attack and should not be used outside the context of randomised controlled trials. Furthermore facilitated interventions with thrombolytic-based regimens should be avoided." (Quote by e-mail; not in paper)

In an accompanying Comment Drs. Gregg Stone (Columbia University Medical Center and the Cardiovascular Research Foundation, New York, NY, USA) and Bernard Gersh (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA) state: "The results of thi

Contact: Joe Santangelo

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