Background: Despite the widespread use of percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), only a few prospective trials have assessed its efficacy. We compared the effects of PTCA with those of medical therapy on angina and exercise tolerance in patients with stable single-vessel coronary artery disease.
Methods: Patients with 70 to 99 percent stenosis of one epicardial coronary artery and with exercise-induced myocardial ischemia were randomly assigned either to undergo PTCA or to receive medical therapy and were evaluated monthly. The patients assigned to PTCA were urged to have repeat angioplasty if their symptoms suggested restenosis. After six months, all the patients had repeat exercise testing and coronary angiography.
Results: A total of 107 patients were randomly assigned to medical therapy and 105 to PTCA. PTCA was clinically successful in 80 of the 100 patients who actually had the procedure, with an initial reduction in mean percent stenosis from 76 to 36 percent. Two patients in the PTCA group required emergency coronary-artery bypass surgery. By six months after the procedure, 16 patients had had repeat PTCA. Myocardial infarction occurred in five patients assigned to PTCA and in three patients assigned to medical therapy. At six months 64 percent of the patients in the PTCA group (61 of 96) were free of angina, as compared with 46 percent of the medically treated patients (47 of 102; P less than 0.01). The patients in the PTCA group were able to increase their total duration of exercise more than the medical patients (2.1 vs. 0.5 minutes, P less than 0.0001) and were able to exercise longer without angina on treadmill testing (P less than 0.01).
Conclusions: For patients with single-vessel coronary artery disease, PTCA offers earlier and more complete relief of angina than medical therapy and is associated with better performance on the exercise test. However, PTCA initially costs more than medical treatment and is associated with a higher frequency of complications.