What is the efficacy of PCI in the treatment of coronary artery atherosclerosis?

Updated: Apr 09, 2021
  • Author: Sandy N Shah, DO, MBA, FACC, FACP, FACOI; Chief Editor: Yasmine S Ali, MD, MSCI, FACC, FACP  more...
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The COURAGE trial demonstrated that performing PCI in severe lesions reduces angina but does not improve overall outcomes over medical therapy alone in patients with stable CAD. The trial randomized patients with stable CAD, ischemia, and significant stenoses of 70% or more in at least 1 proximal coronary artery to a regimen of optimal medical treatment alone or optimal medical treatment combined with PCI. The primary outcome was death from any cause or non-fatal MI during a follow-up period of between 2.5 and 7 years (median 4.6 years). [90]

The results of COURAGE showed no evidence of a better outcome for the PCI group than for the group receiving medical treatment alone, for the combined endpoint death, MI and stroke (20.0% PCI group vs 19.5% medical treatment); for admission to hospital for ACS (12.4% vs 11.8%, respectively); or for MI (13.2% vs 12.3%, respectively). Thus, at least among the patients studied in COURAGE, both treatment strategies resulted in similar outcomes for major cardiac complications and deaths. There was a statistically significant advantage for reduction in the prevalence of angina in the PCI group, with respect to freedom from angina. However, by the end of 5 years of follow-up, the difference was no longer significant (74% of the PCI group and 72% of the group receiving medical treatment only were free of angina).

The results of the trial likely resulted from the fact that most of the lesions responsible for later coronary events are nonobstructive. Thus, prophylactic stenting of all identified lesions (the full metal jacket) is impractical and certainly not justified at this time.

In a prospective, natural-history study of coronary atherosclerosis, patients underwent 3-vessel coronary angiography and gray-scale and radiofrequency intravascular ultrasonographic imaging after percutaneous coronary intervention. [91] Major adverse events were related to both recurrence at the site of culprit lesions and to nonculprit lesions.

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