Surrogate and clinical endpoints in interventional cardiology: are statistics the brakes?

Ther Adv Cardiovasc Dis. 2016 Oct;10(5):314-26. doi: 10.1177/1753944716656150. Epub 2016 Jul 4.


Background: Randomized controlled trials are the gold standard for demonstrating safety and efficacy of coronary devices with or without accompanying drug treatments in interventional cardiology. With the advent of last-generation drug-eluting stents having enhanced technical attributes and long-term clinical benefits, the proof of incremental angiographic or long-term clinical efficacy becomes more challenging. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of the most common and alternative study endpoints in interventional cardiology and their potential reimbursement value. Moreover, we intend to describe the statistical limitations in order to demonstrate differences between potential treatment groups. Furthermore, careful endpoint recommendations for a given patient number are offered for future study designs.

Methods: The number of patients per treatment group was estimated for various study designs such as noninferiority test hypotheses with hard clinical endpoints and various surrogate endpoints. To test for differences in various surrogate endpoint scenarios, the corresponding patient group sizes were explored. To evaluate these endpoints in terms of their reimbursement impact, preferred endpoints for technical appraisals in interventional cardiology at the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) were used.

Results: Even with the most stringent experimental control to reduce bias-introducing factors, studies with hard primary clinical endpoints such as the occurrence of major adverse cardiac events (MACE) or target-lesion revascularization (TLR) rates remain the gold standard, with numbers reaching into the 300-700 patient range per group. Study designs using loss in fractional-flow reserve (FFR) or stent-strut-coverage rates can be statistically formulated; however, the clinical ramifications for the patient remain to be discussed. Nonrandomized study designs with intrapatient angiographic controls in nontarget vessels may merit further thoughts and explorations.

Conclusions: From a reimbursement impact, the primary endpoints MACE and TLR are the best choices for a moderately sized study population of 500 patients per group. Angiographic endpoints, in particular minimal lumen diameter (MLD), are not useful in this context. The emerging endpoints such as loss in FFR or stent coverage require smaller patient populations. However, their impact on reimbursement-related decisions is limited.

Keywords: clinical endpoints; interventional cardiology; reimbursement impact; sample size estimates; surrogate endpoints.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Drug-Eluting Stents*
  • Endpoint Determination
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Revascularization
  • Percutaneous Coronary Intervention*
  • Research Design


  • Biomarkers