Purpose: Patients with unstable angina or non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (MI) may be managed with either an "invasive" or "conservative" strategy. It is unclear which of these strategies is superior.
Methods: We identified studies with MEDLINE and EMBASE searches (1966-September 2003) and by reviewing reference lists. Studies were included if they were randomized controlled trials comparing management strategies for patients in the early post-unstable angina/non-ST-segment elevation MI period and had follow-up data for at least 3 months.
Results: Seven trials that randomized a total of 9212 patients were included. The pooled odds ratio (OR) for all-cause mortality was 0.96 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.72 to 1.27). The occurrence of fatal or nonfatal re-infarction was reduced with an invasive strategy (OR 0.73; 95% CI: 0.61 to 0.88) as was readmission to hospital (OR 0.67; 95% CI: 0.48 to 0.94). The endpoints of nonfatal MI and the composite of death or nonfatal MI showed nonsignificant trends favoring an invasive strategy. Trials that included a higher proportion of patients with ST-segment depression on admission and trials in which a larger proportion of patients underwent revascularization showed a greater magnitude of benefit for an invasive strategy.
Conclusion: For patients with unstable angina/non-ST-segment elevation MI, an invasive strategy reduces rates of fatal or nonfatal re-infarction and hospital readmission, but not all-cause mortality, when compared with a noninvasive strategy. These results suggest that an invasive management strategy should be considered for all patients with unstable angina/non-ST-segment elevation MI and perhaps in particular those with ST-segment depression.