Interventional versus conservative treatment for patients with unstable angina or non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction: the British Heart Foundation RITA 3 randomised trial. Randomized Intervention Trial of unstable Angina

Lancet. 2002 Sep 7;360(9335):743-51. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(02)09894-x.


Background: Current guidelines suggest that, for patients at moderate risk of death from unstable coronary-artery disease, either an interventional strategy (angiography followed by revascularisation) or a conservative strategy (ischaemia-driven or symptom-driven angiography) is appropriate. We aimed to test the hypothesis that an interventional strategy is better than a conservative strategy in such patients.

Methods: We did a randomised multicentre trial of 1810 patients with non-ST-elevation acute coronary syndromes (mean age 62 years, 38% women). Patients were assigned an early intervention or conservative strategy. The antithrombin agent in both groups was enoxaparin. The co-primary endpoints were a combined rate of death, non-fatal myocardial infarction, or refractory angina at 4 months; and a combined rate of death or non-fatal myocardial infarction at 1 year. Analysis was by intention to treat.

Findings: At 4 months, 86 (9.6%) of 895 patients in the intervention group had died or had a myocardial infarction or refractory angina, compared with 133 (14.5%) of 915 patients in the conservative group (risk ratio 0.66, 95% CI 0.51-0.85, p=0.001). This difference was mainly due to a halving of refractory angina in the intervention group. Death or myocardial infarction was similar in both treatment groups at 1 year (68 [7.6%] vs 76 [8.3%], respectively; risk ratio 0.91, 95% CI 0.67-1.25, p=0.58). Symptoms of angina were improved and use of antianginal medications significantly reduced with the interventional strategy (p<0.0001).

Interpretation: In patients presenting with unstable coronary-artery disease, an interventional strategy is preferable to a conservative strategy, mainly because of the halving of refractory or severe angina, and with no increased risk of death or myocardial infarction.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angina Pectoris / etiology
  • Angina Pectoris / mortality
  • Angina Pectoris / therapy*
  • Atherectomy, Coronary
  • Cardiotonic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Coronary Artery Bypass*
  • Coronary Disease / complications
  • Coronary Disease / mortality
  • Coronary Disease / therapy*
  • Endpoint Determination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology
  • Myocardial Infarction / mortality
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy*
  • Risk Factors
  • United Kingdom


  • Cardiotonic Agents