Early invasive versus conservative treatment in patients with failed fibrinolysis--no late survival benefit: the final analysis of the Middlesbrough Early Revascularisation to Limit Infarction (MERLIN) randomized trial

Am Heart J. 2007 May;153(5):763-71. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2007.02.021.


Background: Early (30 days) and midterm (6 months) clinical outcomes in trials comparing rescue angioplasty (rescue percutaneous coronary intervention [rPCI]) with conservative treatment of failed fibrinolysis complicating ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction have shown variable results. Whether early rPCI confers late (up to 3 years) clinical benefits is not known.

Methods: The MERLIN trial compared rPCI and a conservative strategy in patients with failed fibrinolysis complicating ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction. Three hundred seven patients with electrocardiographic evidence of failure to reperfuse at 60 minutes were included. Patients in cardiogenic shock were excluded. Thirty-day and 1-year results have been reported. Results of 3 years of follow-up are presented.

Results: Three-year mortality in the conservative arm and rPCI, respectively, was 16.9% versus 17.6% (P = .9, relative difference [RD] -0.8, 95% CI [-9.3 to 7.8]). Death rates were similar (3.9% vs 3.2%) between 1- and 3-year follow-up, respectively. The incidence of the composite secondary end point of death, reinfarction, stroke, unplanned revascularization, or heart failure was significantly higher in the conservative arm (64.3% vs 49%, P = .01, RD 15.3, 95% CI [4.2-26]). There was no significant difference in the rate of reinfarction (0.7% vs 0.7%) or heart failure (1.3% vs 2.7%) between 1 and 3 years between the conservative and rPCI arms, respectively. The incidence of subsequent unplanned revascularization at 3 years was significantly higher in the conservative arm (33.8% vs 14.4%, P < .01, RD 19.4, 95% CI [10-28.7]), most of which occurred within 1 year; the rates between 1 and 3 years were 3.9% in the conservative arm versus 2% in the rPCI arm. There was a trend toward fewer strokes in the conservative arm at 3 years (conservative arm 2.6% vs rPCI 6.5%, P = .1, RD -3.9%, 95% CI [-9.4 to 0.8]), with similar stroke rates (1.3% vs 1.3%) between 1- and 3-year follow-up.

Conclusions: Rescue angioplasty did not confer a late survival advantage at 3 years. The composite end point occurred less often in the rPCI arm mainly because of fewer unplanned revascularization procedures in the early phase of follow-up. The highest risk of clinical events in patients with failed reperfusion is in the first year, beyond which the rate of clinical events is low.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Failure / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / mortality*
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy*
  • Myocardial Revascularization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Stents
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Survival Analysis
  • Thrombolytic Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Failure
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology