DR SOVAN SINHA
MBBS , MD , MRCP
Is Stenting Replace Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting?
Despite the advent of new generation of stents, patients with multiple narrowed arteries in the heart who received coronary artery bypass grafting fared better than those whose arteries were opened with balloon angioplasty and stents in a study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 64th Annual Scientific Session.
Thank you for the invitation to Thoracic Park. As a cardiologist speaking to cardiovascular surgeons, we will not argue that stenting will replace surgery in the treatment of coronary artery disease (CAD). However, we have made substantial advances in engineering, technique, and pharmacology that make stenting a very good option for revascularization in many patients. These patients are not only those with a single coronary lesion, but also those with multivessel CAD.
When we discuss revascularization outcomes, we are talking about 3 major endpoints: death, myocardial infarction, and symptom control. With respect to death, we know that revascularization benefits patients who have severe multivessel disease and left ventricular dysfunction or other physiologic indicators of high risk. That proof comes from 3 seminal trials performed in the 1970s and 1980s and from many observational studies. Of note, 2-vessel disease with proximal left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) stenosis has been accepted as an indication for revascularization. We concede that the only evidence to support this therapy for patients with stable CAD comes from this single surgical trial. This also concedes that we, the cardiologists, have been unsuccessful in proving that endovascular treatment has a positive impact on stable CAD. This proof is important, because we leave the native arteries relatively intact. The alternative, surgery, remains largely dependent upon the venous autograft, the patency of which deteriorates rapidly after only a few years. Attempts to improve graft performance beyond the relatively spectacular performance of the pedicled internal mammary artery (IMA) graft to the LAD have been disappointing.
Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty
When angioplasty was introduced, the hope was for a method of revascularization that would rival coronary artery bypass grafting. However, the results were mixed. Angioplasty worked well in patients with no major risk factors, such as diabetes mellitus, but failed miserably in diabetic patients. In fact, the Bypass Angioplasty Revascularization Investigation (BARI) trial taught us this: if revascularization is needed, regardless of physiologic markers of high risk, the use of percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is potentially harmful in comparison with an IMA bypass for the LAD.
Stents and Short-Term Outcomes
Along came the bare-metal stent a metallic buttress to solve all the problems of angioplasty and, thereafter, the drug-eluting stent (DES), which “cured” restenosis. Indeed, the stent was a godsend for those of us who do not use cardioplegia. The use of stents drastically reduced the probability of emergent surgery after attempted PCI; however, the probability of new lesion formation or restenosis after intervention did not decrease.
At the same time, surgeons got better. Myocardial preservation techniques improved, and the use of the pedicled IMA graft changed the game. As a result, successful revascularization, meaning long-term success, became the domain of the surgeon. We initially observed that stenting was just as beneficial as surgery. This was in accord with the results of several trials: whenever placing a stent was feasible, stent therapy and surgery had the same outcome.
Stents and Long-Term Outcomes
Later, when we looked at longer-term follow-up data and the effects of multiple procedures, this picture began to change. Stented patients underwent more procedures. When the risk of one surgical procedure was compared with that of multiple endovascular procedures, the outcomes became more similar, especially in patients with bifurcation lesions or lesions with severe calcification. Drug-eluting stents, with their promise of no restenosis, substantially increased interventional cardiologists’ reach, but not their grasp. In patients with multivessel disease and high-risk lesions, DES placement was almost as risky as surgery and did not yield the same long-term benefit.
Nevertheless, we found that the introduction of the DES, with its lower risk of restenosis, was treated as a blessing to proceed with stenting. This did not follow the data, but cardiologists continued anyway, given the promise of less restenosis. Early risk was discounted, glycoprotein inhibitor use declined overnight, and the rate of endovascular procedural complications rose to meet that of surgery without the promise of an IMA graft in our future.
Comparing Stenting and Surgery
For decades, methods have been sought to quantify lesion complexity in order to compare the early and late risks associated with stenting versus surgery. Although no perfect system has been devised, the SYNTAX score was an important step forward. The SYNTAX score is a simple, computer-based tool for evaluating the risk of complications or failure after PCI. And there are other tools for estimating the same complications after surgery. These estimates enable cardiologists to give patients objective advice regarding the revascularization method that has the best short- and long-term probability of success.
In the patient with non-life-threatening disease (that is, not left main or severe multivessel CAD with left ventricular dysfunction or severely impaired function), stent revascularization has become reasonable, although not ideal, alternative to surgical revascularization. However, this is true only if stenting is confined to patients whose anatomy and physiology are suited to it considerations that are well quantified in the SYNTAX score. Whenever questions arise as to the most appropriate therapy, the SYNTAX score should be weighed against clinical characteristics that affect surgical risk. It will guide discussions between the cardiologist, cardiovascular surgeon, patient, and treating physician.It is observed that THI risk score is more useful than the other available scores. It uses simple clinical data and can be easily calibrated to the geographic location of its use. Other scores require data that might not be available at the time of clinical decision-making or at all making such predictions hazardous, at best.
With regard to the chosen mode of revascularization, it is perhaps safe to say that the decision goes beyond the individual physician and must become collective. When a patient has multivessel disease, a reasoned approach must be taken, using these predictive tools and considering the patient’s wishes. Treatment decisions should include all interested parties: the patient, cardiologist, cardiovascular surgeon, and anesthesiologist.
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