Abstract

Aims We compared invasive (on-site coronary angioplasty or emergency air-ambulance transfer for bypass grafting surgery) vs conservative (persistent medical treatment) strategies in the management of refractory unstable angina in geographically isolated hospitals without cardiac surgical facilities.

Methods and Results One hundred and forty eight randomized patients with refractory unstable angina were compared on an intention-to-treat basis. Outcomes (invasive vs conservative): (a) in hospital: stabilization (96% vs 43%,P =0·0001), non-fatal myocardial infarction (2·6% vs 4·2%, P=ns), death (1·3% vs 8·3%, P=0·046), combined outcome (3·9% vs 12·5%, P=0·053) and hospitalization (11·4±6·3 vs 12·4±8·0 days, P=ns). (b) 30-days follow-up: non-fatal myocardial infarction (2·6% vs 4·2%, P=ns), death (2·6% vs 11·1%,P =0·030) and combined outcome (5·3% vs 15·3%, P=0·031). (c) 12 month follow-up: non-fatal myocardial infarction (3·9% vs 4·2%, P=ns), death (3·9% vs 12·5%, P=0·053), combined outcome (7·9% vs 16·7%, P=ns), re-admissions for unstable angina: (17·1% vs 23·6%,P =ns), late coronary angioplasty: (15·8% vs 11·1%, P=ns) and (d) late coronary bypass grafting: (7·9% vs 12·5%,P =ns).

Conclusion Invasive treatment of patients with refractory angina in remote areas without surgical back-up results in significant in-hospital stabilization and a reduction in major events in-hospital and at 30 days. Coronary angioplasty in stand-alone units and air-transfer of these patients seems safe.

Correspondence: Lampros K Michalis, Associate Professor of Cardiology, University of Ioannina, School of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University Campus, Ioannina GR 45110, Greece.

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