Reexamining the Efficacy and Value of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention for Patients With Stable Ischemic Heart Disease

JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Aug 1;176(8):1190-4. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.3071.


Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) continues to be performed frequently for patients with stable ischemic heart disease, despite uncertain efficacy. Individual randomized trial data and meta-analyses have not demonstrated that PCI in addition to optimal medical therapy reduces the incidence of death or myocardial infarction in patients with stable disease. The Clinical Outcomes Utilizing Revascularization and Aggressive Drug Evaluation (COURAGE) Trial did not show benefit for cardiovascular outcomes or mortality but did find a modest improvement in quality of life that did not persist at 3 years. Long-term follow-up from COURAGE (up to 15 years) found no differences in mortality, consistent with other published literature. How PCI could reduce long-term mortality or prevent myocardial infarction is not clear because sites of future plaque rupture leading to myocardial infarction are unpredictable and PCI can only treat localized anatomic segments of obstructive atherosclerosis. In addition, PCI is expensive, and the value to society of PCI for stable disease has not been demonstrated. The ISCHEMIA trial will assess the role of PCI for stable ischemic heart disease using newer technology and in patients with greater ischemic burden than in COURAGE. After nearly a decade, the COURAGE trial and other studies have given us pause to critically reexamine the role of PCI for patients with stable ischemic heart disease. Until further research can show that PCI can reduce cardiovascular events in these patients, a first-line strategy of optimal medical therapy is known to be safe, effective, and noninferior to PCI, and our practice should more closely follow this strategy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Myocardial Infarction / prevention & control*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / mortality*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / therapy*
  • Percutaneous Coronary Intervention / mortality
  • Percutaneous Coronary Intervention / statistics & numerical data*