Background: Many trials have been done to compare primary percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) with thrombolytic therapy for acute ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (AMI). Our aim was to look at the combined results of these trials and to ascertain which reperfusion therapy is most effective.
Methods: We did a search of published work and identified 23 trials, which together randomly assigned 7739 thrombolytic-eligible patients with ST-segment elevation AMI to primary PTCA (n=3872) or thrombolytic therapy (n=3867). Streptokinase was used in eight trials (n=1837), and fibrin-specific agents in 15 (n=5902). Most patients who received thrombolytic therapy (76%, n=2939) received a fibrin-specific agent. Stents were used in 12 trials, and platelet glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors were used in eight. We identified short-term and long-term clinical outcomes of death, non-fatal reinfarction, and stroke, and did subgroup analyses to assess the effect of type of thrombolytic agent used and the strategy of emergent hospital transfer for primary PTCA. All analyses were done with and without inclusion of the SHOCK trial data.
Findings: Primary PTCA was better than thrombolytic therapy at reducing overall short-term death (7% [n=270] vs 9% ; p=0.0002), death excluding the SHOCK trial data (5%  vs 7% ; p=0.0003), non-fatal reinfarction (3%  vs 7% ; p<0.0001), stroke (1%  vs 2% ; p=0.0004), and the combined endpoint of death, non-fatal reinfarction, and stroke (8%  vs 14% ; p<0.0001). The results seen with primary PTCA remained better than those seen with thrombolytic therapy during long-term follow-up, and were independent of both the type of thrombolytic agent used, and whether or not the patient was transferred for primary PTCA.
Interpretation: Primary PTCA is more effective than thrombolytic therapy for the treatment of ST-segment elevation AMI.