Objectives: To compare the clinical- and cost-effectiveness of minimally invasive direct coronary artery bypass grafting (MIDCAB) and percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) with or without stenting in patients with single-vessel disease of the left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD).
Design: Multi-centre randomised trial without blinding. The computer-generated sequence of randomised assignments was stratified by centre, allocated participants in blocks and was concealed using a centralised telephone facility.
Setting: Four tertiary cardiothoracic surgery centres in England.
Participants: Patients with ischaemic heart disease with at least 50% proximal stenosis of the LAD, suitable for either PTCA or MIDCAB, and with no significant disease in another vessel.
Interventions: Patients randomised to PTCA had local anaesthetic and underwent PTCA according to the method preferred by the operator carrying out the procedure. Patients randomised to MIDCAB had general anaesthetic. The chest was opened through an 8-10-cm left anterior thoracotomy. The ribs were retracted and the left internal thoracic artery (LITA) harvested. The pericardium was opened in the line of the LAD to confirm the feasibility of operation. The distal LITA was anastomosed end-to-side to an arteriotomy in the LAD. All operators were experienced in carrying out MIDCAB.
Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was survival free from cardiac-related events. Relevant events were death, myocardial infarction, repeat coronary revascularisation and recurrence of symptomatic angina or clinical signs of ischaemia during an exercise tolerance test at annual follow-up. Secondary outcome measures were complications, functional outcome, disease-specific and generic quality of life, health and social services resource use and their costs.
Results: A total of 12,828 consecutive patients undergoing an angiogram were logged at participating centres from November 1999 to December 2001. Of the 1091 patients with proximal stenosis of the LAD, 127 were eligible and consented to take part; 100 were randomised and the remaining 27 consented to follow-up. All randomised participants were included in an intention-to-treat analysis of survival free from cardiac-related events, which found a non-significant benefit from MIDCAB. Cumulative hazard rates at 12 months were estimated to be 7.1 and 9.2% for MIDCAB and PTCA, respectively. There were no important differences between MIDCAB and PTCA with respect to angina symptoms or disease-specific or generic quality of life. The total NHS procedure costs were 1648 British pounds and 946 British pounds for MIDCAB and PTCA, respectively. The costs of resources used during 1 year of follow-up were 1033 British pounds and 843 British pounds, respectively.
Conclusions: The study found no evidence that MIDCAB was more effective than PTCA. The procedure costs of MIDCAB were observed to be considerably higher than those of PTCA. Given these findings, it is unlikely that MIDCAB represents a cost-effective use of resources in the reference population. Recent advances in cardiac surgery mean that surgeons now tend to carry out off-pump bypass grafting via a sternotomy instead of MIDCAB. At the same time, cardiologists are treating more patients with multi-vessel disease by PTCA. Future primary research should focus on this comparison. Other small trials of PTCA versus MIDCAB have now finished and a more conclusive answer to the original objective could be provided by a systematic review.