MAR 23, 2015 11:09 AM PDT

Heart Bypass Surgery Outperforms New Generation Stents

WRITTEN BY: Judy O'Rourke
Despite the advent of a 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, according to a new study.

The findings echo past studies, which have shown patients with multiple narrowed arteries have better outcomes with coronary artery bypass grafting, also known as CABG or heart bypass surgery, than with angioplasty, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention or PCI, a less-invasive option in which a stent is inserted to hold the arteries open.

In the new study, patients receiving angioplasty with the new stents had a 47 percent higher risk of one of the outcomes identified as a primary endpoint in the study: death, heart attack, and subsequent procedure to clear blocked arteries, as compared to patients who received bypass. In bypass surgery, a vein or artery from elsewhere in the body is grafted onto a narrowed coronary artery to allow blood to flow to the heart more freely. The study reinforces current guidelines, which recommend bypass surgery for treating patients with substantial narrowing in multiple arteries, a condition known as multivessel coronary artery disease.

"Based on our data, CABG is still the preferred option for multivessel disease," says cardiologist Seung-Jung Park, MD, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, South Korea, and the study's lead author. "We had thought that previous trials may have been limited by their use of first-generation drug-eluting stents, but these results show CABG still leads to better outcomes."

The study, called the Bypass Surgery Versus Everolimus-Eluting Stent Implantation for Multivessel Coronary Artery Disease (BEST) trial, is one of only two randomized controlled trials to compare bypass to angioplasty since the introduction of everolimus-eluting stents, a new generation of drug-eluting stent. These stents emit medication to prevent blood clots and have been shown to be more effective at keeping arteries open. The trial's findings align with those from the previous study, called Synergy between PCI with Taxus and Cardiac Surgery (SYNTAX).

The study was terminated earlier than planned, limiting its statistical power to detect differences in individual outcomes instead of only composite outcomes. The early termination was due to slow enrollment, thought to be a consequence of the rapid spread and increased appeal of a new angioplasty technique called fractional flow reserve during the later part of the study enrollment period.

The angioplasty procedures in the BEST and SYNTAX studies were guided by the medical imaging technique angiography.

Because it is a more invasive procedure, heart bypass is generally recommended only for patients with higher-risk narrowing in two or more arteries. Angioplasty is preferred for patients with lower-risk narrowing in one or two arteries.

[Source: American College of Cardiology]
About the Author
  • Judy O'Rourke worked as a newspaper reporter before becoming chief editor of Clinical Lab Products magazine. As a freelance writer today, she is interested in finding the story behind the latest developments in medicine and science, and in learning what lies ahead.
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