Background: The clinical benefit of coronary-artery stenting performed in conjunction with coronary angioplasty is limited by the risk of thrombotic occlusion of the stent as well as hemorrhagic and vascular complications of intensive anticoagulation. We compared antiplatelet therapy with conventional anticoagulant therapy with respect to clinical outcomes 30 days after coronary-artery stenting.
Methods: After successful placement of Palmaz-Schatz coronary-artery stents, 257 patients were randomly assigned to receive antiplatelet therapy (ticlopidine plus aspirin) and 260 to receive anticoagulant therapy (intravenous heparin, phenprocoumon, and aspirin). The primary cardiac end point was a composite measure reflecting death from cardiac causes or the occurrence of myocardial infarction, aortocoronary bypass surgery, or repeat angioplasty. The primary noncardiac end point comprised death from noncardiac causes, cerebrovascular accident, severe hemorrhage, and peripheral vascular events.
Results: Of the patients assigned to antiplatelet therapy, 1.6 percent reached a primary cardiac end point, as did 6.2 percent of those assigned to anticoagulant therapy (relative risk, 0.25; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.06 to 0.77). With antiplatelet therapy, there was an 82 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction than in the anticoagulant-therapy group, and a 78 percent lower need for repeat interventions. Occlusion of the stented vessel occurred in 0.8 percent of the antiplatelet-therapy group and in 5.4 percent of the anticoagulant-therapy group (relative risk, 0.14; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.02 to 0.62). A primary noncardiac end point was reached by 1.2 percent of the antiplatelet-therapy group and 12.3 percent of the anticoagulant-therapy group (relative risk, 0.09; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.02 to 0.31). Hemorrhagic complications occurred only in the anticoagulant-therapy group (in 6.5 percent). An 87 percent reduction in the risk of peripheral vascular events was observed with antiplatelet therapy.
Conclusions: As compared with conventional anticoagulant therapy, combined antiplatelet therapy after the placement of coronary-artery stents reduces the incidence of both cardiac events and hemorrhagic and vascular complications.