Objectives: This study sought to evaluate, in a prospective and randomized trial, the relative efficacies of three possible therapeutic strategies for patients with a single severe proximal stenosis of the left anterior descending coronary artery and stable angina.
Background: Although percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty and coronary artery bypass surgery are often performed in patients with a single proximal stenosis of the left anterior descending coronary artery, it is unclear whether revascularization offers greater clinical benefit than medical therapy alone.
Methods: At a single center, 214 patients with stable angina, normal ventricular function and a proximal stenosis of the left anterior descending coronary artery > 80% were randomly assigned to undergo mammary bypass surgery (n = 70), balloon angioplasty (n = 72) or medical therapy alone (n = 72). Angioplasty had to be considered technically feasible in every case. The predefined primary study end point was the combined incidence of cardiac death, myocardial infarction or refractory angina requiring revascularization.
Results: At an average follow-up period of 3 years, a primary end point had occurred in only 2 patients (3%) assigned to bypass surgery compared with 17 assigned to angioplasty (24%) and 12 assigned to medical therapy (17%) (p = 0.0002, angioplasty vs. bypass surgery; p = 0.006, bypass surgery vs. medical treatment; p = 0.28, angioplasty vs. medical treatment, all by log-rank test). There was no difference in mortality or infarction rates among the groups. However, no patient allocated to bypass surgery needed revascularization, compared with eight and seven patients assigned, respectively, to coronary angioplasty and medical treatment (p = 0.019). Both revascularization techniques resulted in greater symptomatic relief and a lower incidence of ischemia on the treadmill test; however, all three strategies eventually resulted in the abolition of limiting angina.
Conclusions: The more aggressive therapeutic approach with initial bypass surgery for patients with a single severe proximal stenosis of the left anterior descending coronary artery is associated with a lower incidence of medium-term adverse events than coronary angioplasty or medical treatment. However, all three strategies resulted in a similar incidence of death and infarction during an average follow-up period of 3 years. This information should be taken into consideration when physicians and patients make therapeutic choices in this setting.