Background: The COURAGE (Clinical Outcomes Utilizing Revascularization and Aggressive Drug Evaluation) trial was designed to compare optimal medical therapy alone versus optimal medical therapy and percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) for treatment of patients with stable coronary artery disease and showed equal efficacy for optimal medical therapy with or without PCI. The impact of results from the COURAGE trial on clinical practice is unknown.
Methods and results: We analyzed 26 388 consecutive patients from the Northern New England Cardiovascular Disease PCI Registry who underwent PCI between January 2006 and June 2009. We identified a COURAGE-like patient group as patients who were undergoing (1) an elective procedure; (2) for an indication of stable angina; and (3) on the day of admission (ie, the date of admission was the same as the procedure date). All other PCI patients were placed in an "other indications" cohort. We compared temporal trends in overall volume in PCI for stable angina and for other indications, comparing quarterly time periods before and after release of COURAGE in March 2007. Over the study period, there was a statistically significant decrease in total PCI volume from 2064 in Quarter 1 2006 (before COURAGE) to 1708 in Quarter 3 2007 (after COURAGE) (P<0.01). These trends were sustained through June 2009, with an approximate 16% peak relative reduction in all PCI compared with before COURAGE. As a percentage of all PCI, stable angina reached a high of 20.9% before COURAGE and began to decrease immediately after publication of COURAGE in Quarter 2 2007 to 16.1% (P<0.01). Among patients undergoing PCI for stable angina, there was a significant 26% peak decrease in post-COURAGE PCI volumes compared with pre-COURAGE Quarter 1 2006 (P trend, 0.01), which was maintained through the end of the study period.
Conclusions: Publication of results from the COURAGE trial was temporally associated with a significant and sustained decline in the use of PCI to treat patients with stable angina. The long-term impact of this change in practice on patient outcomes remains to be determined.