Archive for the ‘Primary PCI’ Category

Less than a century ago an easy chair  was enough to manage this most important medical emergency of mankind. Of course, at that time mortality of STEMI was estimated to be around 30%.We have since pushed the in-hospital death rate down to less than 10 %  and its around 5-8% currently.(*The lifeless chairs were able to save 70 lives is a different story!)

Heparin , thrombolytic agents, critical coronary care has helped us to achieve this , of course It must be admitted primary PCI also played a small role (at best 1 % ) in our fight against this number one killer.

Now, why not combine  both lysis and PCI ?

The concept of PIA (Pharmaco Invasive approach) came into vogue  primarily for two reasons.

1.If thrombolysis and  pPCI are powerful strategies by individual merits why not combine both and achieve double the benefit ?

2. Since pPCI is going to be a logistical nightmare in most points of care and we can’t afford to lose time . So, let us lyse first and consider PCI later !

Unfortunately medical science is not math .One plus one in medicine is rarely two !

Though , it looks attractive , Pharmaco invasive approach  has its own troubles.Fortunately , most of them are man-made, few are beyond our knowledge though.

Following general rules  may help us

  • STEMI  should ideally managed by early thrombolysis (or PCI) in all deserving patients.
  • Don’t wait for PCI if you think , there will be delay or reduced expertise and poor track record of the center in this modality.
  • Pharmaco invasive  therapy is not a default in all STEMI .Do good quality , monitored  lysis , (Not necessarily new generation thrombolytic .(I prefer one hour sustained thrombolytic regimen , not the hit or miss bolus) .As a learned cardiologist we need to assess individual patients according to the type and risk of MI.Its not wise to blindly follow the guidelines ,because these guidelines , though based on evidence never answers a query in a single patient perspective !

The key “branch points”  in decision making  after lysis

  • Invasive strategy  should begin within one hour if the patient has failed  thrombolysis and has developed any mechanical issues.( Mind you, LVF requires good medical stabilization .Rushing  such patients to cath lab without application of mind can be disastrous )
  • If the Initial  lysis is excellent and the patient is asymptomatic  one need not proceed with invasive limb at all.(A significant chunk of apparently failed lysis by ECG are asymptomatic and comfortable , these are patients require delicate assessment regarding further intervention. )
  • If the MI is large and the clinical  stability is “not confirmed” one may  proceed urgently within 24 h.
  • In any case there is no role for invasive approach after 24 hours* Unless fresh ischemia  suspected to come from IRA or  non IRA.
  • Having  said that, there are many centers that do a diagnostic  angiogram alone just prior to discharge  (48-72h) for risk stratification and then take a genuine call for a possible PCI or  CABG. In my opinion it appears a sensible strategy , though a non invasive stress  test pre/post discharge can even avoid that  coronary angiogram !

One issue with Rescue PIA

Though by current definition  PIA is to be done  3-24 hours , don’t wait for the 4th hour if you have recognized a failed thrombolysis earlier than three hours.( Ofcourse , as the gap between P and I gets too narrowed it may  carry some adverse  effects witnessed in routine facilitated PCI -Refer FINESSE study ) Similarly,there need not be a blanket ban on PCI beyond 24 hours if residual ischemia is active.

Final message

PIA is a dynamic  coronary  re -perfusion strategy . Nothing is fixed in science. . The optimal gap between Pharmaco and invasive strategy  can be anywhere between  1 hour to “Infinitely deferred” depending upon individual risk perception and wisdom of the treating cardiologist.





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Scientific cardiology has forced us to believe ACS management must be catheter based and all others are inferior  and  those who pursue the later , carry a risk of  being labelled as unethical in near future. However ,experienced cardiologists will know  where the truth lies.

Now,in the interventional cardiology board rooms  there is a big  debate going on regarding the value of early total revascualrisation in STEMI with multivessel CAD.Suddenly , every lesion looks suspect ( Ex,current or future culprit ! ) and all stentable lesion are stented  either in an emergency or semi emergency fashion (The new age post PCI dialogue goes something like this “I have tackled one culprit , other one seems to hide in LAD ,  we will arrest it  next 48 hours or so* ? ( This is the concept of  deferred or staged  non-IRA stenting )

*Ironically it brings   one more dubious therapeutic time window in ACS !

ptca ira non ira multivesssel pci

The recent  studies like  PRAMI, PRIMULTY ,CvLPRIT are trying to find out an answer to this issue  and suggest acute multivessel PCI may be  good strategy. Some of them advocate a FFR guided non IRA intervention , knowing fully well micro-circulatory bed is completely altered by the index acute thrombotic event.( Mind you , for FFR,  we need to induce maximum hyperemia with Adenosine in a highly varying local autonomic milleu within the thrombus clogged capillary network)

Final message ( Intentionally biased !)

Till we learn or unlearn  it is vital to go with conventional wisdom.Don’t pursue a random hunt for coronary culprits in acute phase of  STEMI.Many of them are innocents and likely to suffer in cross fire.Tender coronary arteries need some rest,peace and time to heal thyself  . Just keep away , they will definitely say big  thanks with folded hands !


1.Gershlick AH, Khan J, Kelly DJ, et al. Randomized Trial of Complete Versus Lesion-Only Revascularization in Patients Undergoing Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention for STEMI and Multivessel Disease: The CvLPRIT Trial. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;65(10):963-972.

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Every one talks about  coronary excesses ! It happens  both  in acute and chronic  fashion , not withstanding the inappropriately  understood  . . .   appropriately  released  guidelines  on inappropriateness ! The  burden  of coronary syndromes of the humanity, I am afraid would  include these man made excess as well !

I stumbled upon two  small  “gems ” in this other wise wild dark  cardiology literature  .One from Kamaer , Netherlands and other from  Escaned from Spain.

Both  talk about a  simple and logical modality in the management of STEMI . If bulk of the STEMI events are due to coronary thrombosis just tackle it  . No more  . . . no less” Stent only , if there is tight residual lesion.

1. From Amsterdam , Holland.

krammer thrombus aspiration alone priamry poba for stemi no stent

2.This one is from Spain.These studies I am sure , only a fraction of the interventional community would have read .Reason ? We are always hijacked by the moments of glamor ! I am just sharing them .hope few are benefited

primary POBA thrombus aspiration alone for stemi no stent stemithrombus aspiration alone for stemi no stent priamry pobaThese two studies with total number of 44 patients has a potential to redefine  the entire practice pattern of acute interventional coronary care.(Of course , if only , we are ready to make sense out of it !)

But , the concept will be heavily banished by strong visible and invisible forces   for the simple reason it suggests a true possibility  of knocking  out the role of  stent from acute STEMI arena.

When I discussed with my colleagues  for a large scale study  on isolated thrombus aspiration in STEMI , they told it  is not possible for ethical reasons !

I was amused , denying such a study is biggest ethical blow to the field interventional  cardiology !

Final message

Proof of concept does not require numbers .A study with less than 50 subjects  can be far superior than multi-centre ,multi-blinded , self steered ,peer reviewed largesse ! The truth of the study lies in the core consciousness  of people who do it , not in the numbers and exotic statistical methods !.

After all , one of the greatest medical study  was  done by James Lind  (Father of RCT) who discovered vitamin c as an antidote for scurvy,  with a hand full of sailors  while they crossed the Atlantic many centuries ago !

After thought

You say , thrombus aspiration is great , Why the hell , TAPAS , INFUSE AMI, and TASTE studies  confuse us regarding thrombus aspiration  ?

Don’t blame it on thrombus aspiration .We do it perfectly . It is because of what  we do after that ! We decorate the coronary lumen finally with a piece of metal cherry  undoing all the goodness of a great pudding !

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Many  readers  of this site might have wondered  , about a  series of biased articles  pulling down the  superiority of pPCI in STEMI.

This  French  study (FAST-MI) throws stunning data  from the real world. Initial Fibrinolysis* defeated pPCI in all aspects of coronary reperfusion !

FAST MI primary PCI  trialFAST MI primary PCI  trial 2

*When we say fibrinolysis arm it means Pharmaco -Invasive approach .Today our  brain  is irreversibly conditioned to believe standalone fibrinolysis is  forbidden in STEMI . (Which I strongly disagree!) I am sure, very soon another stunning study will unmask the truth about standalone fibrinolysis  as well !

Final message

  • The truth  is ,  pPCI is really a superior  modality in some of the complicated  subsets of STEMI that too if performed fast.
  • In all other situations Initial fibrinolysis will rule supreme !
  • pPCI is not an Innovation for mass consumption!
  • Hence, “the roof top call” for  pPCI for every STEMI is nether desirable nor feasible.

Now, we have this evidence from France (Which was well known to us a decade ago) As always , truth takes time to arrive , while falsehood can come instantly !


In 2014 , after two decades of celebration of pPCI  the flagship Circulation journal  throws this Editorial !

primary pci vs thromolysis debate fast study




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Modern  day cardiac scientists have legally defined a significant coronary  lesion as > 70 % obstruction. Unfortunately this rule is applicable more in  academic forums not in cath labs.

While the guidelines seem to be clear in chronic coronary syndromes , in ACS  the interventional strategies based on  severity of lesion is  not  clearly defined.

Many times  in a  recannalised coronary artery following STEMI  (Either  spontaneous  or pharmacological )  even a 10-20  % lesion is stented .(Mind you ,  coronary erosion  that  trigger  pure thrombotic  STEMI  will be stented by most  of the  proud  young cardiologists of today !) The guidelines conveniently  ignore this area  allowing  the cardiac physicians  to  indulge in the coronary exotica !

Is this logical ?

Why do you need to stent a successfully lysed coronary  lesion with TIMI 3 flow. ?(We do know , many  young infarcts have pure thrombotic STEMI with zero % lesion   (In India 40% of young STEMI has near normal CAG  )

This situation arises by an ill conceived concept called pharmaco- invasive approach where routine coronary angiogram is advocated even after successful thrombolysis  in patient  who is asymptomatic and complete salvage of myocardium has been achieved  by pharmacological means .

* The only way to prevent this excess  is to ban the  pharmaco -Invasive approach for  asymptomatic and apparently successful thrombolysis .(Better still  even CAG should be banned ! for  the  simple reason an inappropriate CAG  begets an Inappropriate PCI !)

A Narrow  gap  separates  Ignorance and  knowledge !

Does the  PCI  makes the  ill-fated site  less vulnerable   for future events  . . .  when compared to   well  re-cannlised native coronary artery with negligible lesion ?

The funny side of  cardiac science  can be appreciated , when  somebody  is implanting a latest generation stent for 10-20 % lesion  just because it is associated with an ACS ,  another would astutely   study  the significance of 70-80% lesion  by FFR  in  an adjacent lab !



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Pharmaco Invasive approach (PIA)  is the new mantra in the management of ACS.It simply means the intention to do PCI   should always  be the  driving force in every STEMI patient , whether the Initial lysis is successful or failed .

This concept is exclusively created  for centers where there is no cath lab (This would include  hospitals  with  inactive labs ,  cardiologist  team  who lack required expertise !)

What to do after lysis ?

  • If  the initial lysis has failed  “Rush” them  for an emergency  PCI.
  • If  Initial lysis is successful  “Send”  them for PCI in a  less emergent manner.

Generally the  time window for PIA is 3-24 hours.  In failed lysis  technically it could be as early as 1 hour as that is the time to assess the efficacy of initial lysis. (Of-course the theoretical transfer  time to be added )

Why the 3 hour period for PIA ?

We know routine   facilitated-PCI(f-PCI)  with various combinations of  fibrinolytics  and 2b -3a antagonists is a failed concept. (FINNESS )

One of  the primary reason for f-PCI to fail is , the  very narrow time window  between drug and balloon which somehow  end up in more hazard  (Needle -Balloon window)  .

If they are very close the harm is likely to be more ,still they have to be closer if lysis has failed .(This is the reason many old studies had depressing results with even with the  concept  of rescue PCI !)

Lytic agents and PCI  even though we assume to compliment each other real world evidence indicate they share a love hate relationship .


Beware, PIA is one form of facilitated  PCI.

If we agree routine  f-PCI is a failed concept we are in for real trouble. PIA indeed may  masquerade as f-PCI  if  you combine lytic and PCI in sequential fashion in a hurry !

My point of view is is a  successfully lysed STEMI should not be rushed to cath lab .If  he  some how reach the  cath lab ultra fast manner , it behaves like a  f-PCI and he is going  to harmed more !  by the current evidence base  isn’t ?

If the  inital lysis was successful , with a  less complex anatomy, it is  possible your PCI  that is going make the lesion more vulnerable.

(The other  issue is tied with flawed human instinct. One can’t stop with CAG in a PIA* .Interventional  cardiologists rarely have the courage to leave a well recannalised IRA  without PCI.)

**Still , you need to facilitate the PCI in complex intervention in  true rescue situation.That’s were we require the collective wisdom.

Assumptions galore in ACS

We have difficulty in  identifying true success and failure of lysis .Vagueness with which we make decisions  in CCUs and cath labs  , is exemplified by the following facts. Post thrombolysis , 40%  patients with persistent ST elevation are asymptomatic and 30 % of all those with complete  ST regression , still have occluded IRA.

We are also uncertain when do  the muscle  truly  die after a STEMI ! It is 6 hours in some, 12 in many, 24h  in few , 36 h in a lucky ones .The role  of collaterals, intermittent patency , individual variation  resistance to myocardial hypoxia injury cannot be  be quantified .

Final message

  • The importance of Needle to Balloon  time (NBT) time in PIA  is to be strongly emphasized.
  • This time can vary between 1-24 hours .But practically it will start from 3 hours .
  • The irony is , we have conflicting  engagement with time in PIA. We have to  strive for both narrowing as well as intentionally  prolonging this time window .
  • It has to be narrowed in true rescue situations and   optimally prolonged (Or is it indefinitely ! ) in non rescue situations !

After thought

Can we do pharmaco-Invasive approach(PIA)  in PCI capable center ?

  • Even in PCI capable centre one may get struck in proceeding with anticipated primary PCI for various reasons . If delay is anticipated we  have to fall back on thrombolysis .This we call as  unscheduled  or bail out  phamaco Invasive strategy .
  • Intentional PIA   in a PCI capable hospital for all low risk MI is also a viable and option .Never think  primary lysis   for STEMI  even if we  have lab ready is serious medial crime . After all , pPCI has a very  marginal benefits in if any in all low risk STEMI!

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Last week  there was a heated debate in our CCU regarding thrombolysis for  a patient with severe rest angina  and ST elevation in AVR  and ST depression in V2-V5  as it implies  Left main disease  Few argued left main disease is an exception where one can thrombolyse even with unstable angina !

One of my fellows argued ACC guidelines vouched for lysis in UA involving left main .( I do not agree )

A logical attempt to differentiate Left main NSTEMI//UA and STEMI

(In the strict sense Left main NSTEMI is misnomer as AVR shows ST elevation  isn’t ? )

left main disease

Final message

Such  patients with suspected LMD   are to be rushed to cath lab .  . . agreed . If it is not feasible , manage it as high risk unstable angina and do not thrombolyse .Let it be left main disease . Indications for lysis are clear. ST  elevation in AVR alone can not be taken as an Indication for lysis.For thromolysis to be effective there should be high thrombus burden with total occlusion . ST elevation in single lead (AVR ) is not a good  marker for left-main thrombus !

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