Context: As more interventions become available for the treatment of coronary heart disease (CHD), policy makers and health practitioners need to understand the benefits of each intervention, to better determine where to focus resources. This is particularly true when a patient with CHD quits smoking.
Objective: To conduct a systematic review to determine the magnitude of risk reduction achieved by smoking cessation in patients with CHD.
Data sources: Nine electronic databases were searched from start of database to April 2003, supplemented by cross-checking references, contact with experts, and with large international cohort studies (identified by the Prospective Studies Collaboration).
Study selection: Prospective cohort studies of patients who were diagnosed with CHD were included if they reported all-cause mortality and had at least 2 years of follow-up. Smoking status had to be measured after CHD diagnosis to ascertain quitting.
Data extraction: Two reviewers independently assessed studies to determine eligibility, quality assessment of studies, and results, and independently carried out data extraction using a prepiloted, standardized form.
Data synthesis: From the literature search, 665 publications were screened and 20 studies were included. Results showed a 36% reduction in crude relative risk (RR) of mortality for patients with CHD who quit compared with those who continued smoking (RR, 0.64; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.58-0.71). Results from individual studies did not vary greatly despite many differences in patient characteristics, such as age, sex, type of CHD, and the years in which studies took place. Adjusted risk estimates did not differ substantially from crude estimates. Many studies did not adequately address quality issues, such as control of confounding, and misclassification of smoking status. However, restriction to 6 higher-quality studies had little effect on the estimate (RR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.65-0.77). Few studies included large numbers of elderly persons, women, ethnic minorities, or patients from developing countries.
Conclusions: Quitting smoking is associated with a substantial reduction in risk of all-cause mortality among patients with CHD. This risk reduction appears to be consistent regardless of age, sex, index cardiac event, country, and year of study commencement.