Background: Prompt restoration of Thrombolysis In Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) grade 3 flow improves survival in patients with acute ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (MI). Fibrinolytic therapy fails to restore TIMI 3 flow within 90 minutes in 40% to 50% of patients. Because the results of percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) for MI seem to be improving, a reevaluation of the role of PCI after fibrinolytic therapy for MI appears to be warranted.
Methods and results: Data from all 9 randomized controlled trials (including new data from 4 trials) of rescue percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) versus conservative therapy after fibrinolytic therapy (1456 patients), 4 contemporary registries of PCI in this setting (977 patients), and other germane studies are reviewed. PTCA after failed fibrinolysis (TIMI 0 to 1 flow) appears to reduce early severe heart failure (3. 8% vs 11.7%, P =.04) and improve survival over 1 year in patients with moderate to large MI (92% vs 87%, P =.001) and possibly reduces early repeat MI (4.3% vs 11.3%, P =.08). Assessment of the possible benefit of PTCA for TIMI 2 flow is hampered by the small number of patients randomly assigned. Repeat MI may be decreased and left ventricular functional recovery enhanced. PTCA early after successful fibrinolysis is nearly always technically successful and may reduce repeat MI and hospital length of stay. However, it must be recalled that randomized trials from the 1980s suggested increased mortality rates with PTCA after restoration of TIMI 2 to 3 flow with fibrinolysis. Data from contemporary randomized studies of stents and glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors suggest that PCI as performed today may yield better results than those reviewed.
Conclusions: These data suggest a probable benefit of rescue PTCA in several distinct scenarios and that the pivotal mid-1980s studies suggesting no benefit or harm for PTCA after fibrinolytic therapy may no longer be relevant. The role of mechanical intervention in the treatment of patients treated in these settings should be reassessed.