Background: Percutaneous coronary revascularization is widely used in improving symptoms and exercise performance in patients with ischemic heart disease and stable angina pectoris. In this study, we compared percutaneous coronary revascularization with lipid-lowering treatment for reducing the incidence of ischemic events.
Methods: We studied 341 patients with stable coronary artery disease, relatively normal left ventricular function, asymptomatic or mild-to-moderate angina, and a serum level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol of at least 115 mg per deciliter (3.0 mmol per liter) who were referred for percutaneous revascularization. We randomly assigned the patients either to receive medical treatment with atorvastatin, at 80 mg per day (164 patients), or to undergo the recommended percutaneous revascularization procedure (angioplasty) followed by usual care, which could include lipid-lowering treatment (177 patients). The follow-up period was 18 months.
Results: Twenty-two (13 percent) of the patients who received aggressive lipid-lowering treatment with atorvastatin (resulting in a 46 percent reduction in the mean serum LDL cholesterol level, to 77 mg per deciliter [2.0 mmol per liter]) had ischemic events, as compared with 37 (21 percent) of the patients who underwent angioplasty (who had an 18 percent reduction in the mean serum LDL cholesterol level, to 119 mg per deciliter [3.0 mmol per liter]). The incidence of ischemic events was thus 36 percent lower in the atorvastatin group over an 18-month period (P=0.048, which was not statistically significant after adjustment for interim analyses). This reduction in events was due to a smaller number of angioplasty procedures, coronary-artery bypass operations, and hospitalizations for worsening angina. As compared with the patients who were treated with angioplasty and usual care, the patients who received atorvastatin had a significantly longer time to the first ischemic event (P=0.03).
Conclusions: In low-risk patients with stable coronary artery disease, aggressive lipid-lowering therapy is at least as effective as angioplasty and usual care in reducing the incidence of ischemic events.