Aims: Percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI) are used to treat acute and chronic forms of coronary artery disease. While in chronic forms the main goal of PCI is to improve the quality of life, in acute coronary syndromes (ACS) timely PCI is a life-saving procedure - especially in the setting of ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). The aim of this study was to describe the experience of countries with successful nationwide implementation of PCI in STEMI, and to provide general recommendations for other countries.
Methods and results: The European Association of Percutaneous Cardiovascular Interventions (EAPCI) recenty launched the Stent For Life Initiative (SFLI). The initial phase of this pan-European project was focused on the positive experience of five countries to provide the best practice examples. The Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Denmark and Austria were visited and the logistics of ACS treatment was studied. Public campaigns improved patient access to acute PCI. Regional networks involving emergency medical services (EMS), non-PCI hospitals and PCI centres are useful in providing access to acute PCI for most patients. Direct transfer from the first medical contact site to the cathlab is essential to minimise the time delays. Cathlab staff work is organised to provide acute PCI services 24 hours a day / seven days a week (24/7). Even in those regions where thrombolysis is still used due to long transfer distances to PCI, patients should still be transferred to a PCI centre (after thrombolysis). The highest risk non-ST elevation acute myocardial infarction patients should undergo emergency coronary angiography within two hours of hospital admission, i.e. similar to STEMI patients.
Conclusions: Three realistic goals for other countries were defined based on these experiences: 1) primary PCI should be used for >70% of all STEMI patients, 2) primary PCI rates should reach >600 per million inhabitants per year and 3) existing PCI centres should treat all their STEMI patients by primary PCI, i.e. should offer a 24/7 service.