Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess the value of preoperative cardiac testing in intermediate-risk patients receiving beta-blocker therapy with tight heart rate (HR) control scheduled for major vascular surgery.
Background: Treatment guidelines of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association recommend cardiac testing in these patients to identify subjects at increased risk. This policy delays surgery, even though test results might be redundant and beta-blockers with tight HR control provide sufficient myocardial protection. Furthermore, the benefit of revascularization in high-risk patients is ill-defined.
Methods: All 1,476 screened patients were stratified into low-risk (0 risk factors), intermediate-risk (1 to 2 risk factors), and high-risk (> or =3 risk factors). All patients received beta-blockers. The 770 intermediate-risk patients were randomly assigned to cardiac stress-testing (n = 386) or no testing. Test results influenced management. In patients with ischemia, physicians aimed to control HR below the ischemic threshold. Those with extensive stress-induced ischemia were considered for revascularization. The primary end point was cardiac death or myocardial infarction at 30-days after surgery.
Results: Testing showed no ischemia in 287 patients (74%); limited ischemia in 65 patients (17%), and extensive ischemia in 34 patients (8.8%). Of 34 patients with extensive ischemia, revascularization before surgery was feasible in 12 patients (35%). Patients assigned to no testing had similar incidence of the primary end point as those assigned to testing (1.8% vs. 2.3%; odds ratio [OR] 0.78; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.28 to 2.1; p = 0.62). The strategy of no testing brought surgery almost 3 weeks forward. Regardless of allocated strategy, patients with a HR <65 beats/min had lower risk than the remaining patients (1.3% vs. 5.2%; OR 0.24; 95% CI 0.09 to 0.66; p = 0.003).
Conclusions: Cardiac testing can safely be omitted in intermediate-risk patients, provided that beta-blockers aiming at tight HR control are prescribed.