Background: Atherosclerotic renal artery stenosis is increasingly common in an aging population. Therapeutic options include medical treatment only or revascularization procedures.
Purpose: To compare the effects of medical treatment and revascularization on clinically important outcomes in adults with atherosclerotic renal artery stenosis.
Data sources: The MEDLINE database (inception to 6 September 2005) and selected reference lists were searched for English-language articles.
Study selection: The authors selected prospective studies of renal artery revascularization or medical treatment of patients with atherosclerotic renal artery stenosis that reported mortality rates, kidney function, blood pressure, cardiovascular events, or adverse events at 6 months or later after study entry.
Data extraction: A standardized protocol with predefined criteria was used to extract details on study design, interventions, outcomes, study quality, and applicability. The overall body of evidence was then graded as robust, acceptable, or weak.
Data synthesis: No study directly compared aggressive medical therapy with angioplasty and stent placement. Two randomized trials compared angioplasty without stent and medical treatments. Eight other comparative studies and 46 cohort studies met criteria for analysis. Studies generally had poor methodologic quality and limited applicability to current practice. Overall, there was no robust evidence. Weak evidence suggested no large differences in mortality rates or cardiovascular events between medical and revascularization treatments. Acceptable evidence suggested similar kidney-related outcomes but better blood pressure outcomes with angioplasty, particularly in patients with bilateral disease. Improvements in kidney function and cure of hypertension were reported among some patients only in cohort studies of angioplasty. Available evidence did not adequately assess adverse events or baseline characteristics that could predict which intervention would result in better outcomes.
Limitations: The evidence from direct comparisons of interventions is sparse and inadequate to draw robust conclusions.
Conclusions: Available evidence does not clearly support one treatment approach over another for atherosclerotic renal artery stenosis.