Archive for the ‘Primary -PCI’ Category

A young man aged around 40 years, had a STEMI was promptly thrombolysed in a small hospital located about 40 KM away in the suburbs of my city Chennai. They did an awesome job of saving the patient life and salvaging the myocardium.

Now begins the story . . . one of the non-medical person who is the owner of the hospital has an unfortunate working  business relationship with a frighteningly big nearby hospital  which had signed a memorandum of irresponsible understanding . It demanded any  patient who arrives in the small hospital with MI should be transferred at earliest opportunity to them.

So, an ambulance was arranged  and the patient (with a fairly well reperfused heart ) was shifted  in an emergency fashion . It reached desired destination after nicely chugging along the choked chaotic Chennai evening traffic for 45 minutes.

The guy was taken directly to cath lab through the side doors to perform a second salvage  procedure on a successfully opened IRA. Young cardiology consultants  in designer cath suite welcomed the smiling ACS patient to their posh new lab .Did few rapid radial shots, mumbled among themselves for few minutes,  decided to stent  a minimal LAD lesion for a patient who was in  zero distress with well-preserved LV function.

*The relatives of the patients were curious when they were asked sign a fresh set of consent which elaborately  mentioned about possible life risk during the procedure.

The patient’s wife  was clearly  amused and she pointed out to the superior cardiologists about  the earlier briefing by the Inferior freelance cardiologist who treated him in the previous hospital. She recalled , “I was told in confident terms  that  Initial thrombolysis  has been spectacularly  successful and bulk of the treatment is over and risk of complication has dramatically reduced”.

Then why is this distressing risk taking story again ,  she asked ?

The doctors hurriedly explained ,”this procedure is different. We are sorry to say we have no other option but to add  further risk to you” ! but , its all for your good !

Why should I ?  If the initial lysis is very successful  why do you want to meddle with it again ?

No Madam , you are ill-informed , you can’t talk like that .This is what modern  science  is all about. Leave the professional decision to us. We need to check immediately  whether the lysis is really successful .We can’t rely on the ECG.Further, true success lies in stenting the lesion as we fear the ill-fated site may close again.We are  taught to practice protocols based on standard scientific guidelines. This hospital has highest rating in-terms of quality care. That’s why we got updated ISO 2000  NABH accreditation

The women who is a soft ware engineer was smartly and  scientifically silenced in 5 minutes flat !

Post-amble :

What happened  to the patient then ? (When you fear something it happens is in’t the  Murphy’s law ?)

The apparently asymptotic and comfortable patient had uneventful PCI. A  long drug eluting  stent  was  implanted in recanalized  lesion in LAD with around 30 % narrowing that ended with an innocuous looking diagonal pinch. The procedure was uneventful , however next day he developed some fresh ECG changes and chest pain . The worried team took him for another angio found  stent was patent But , ultimately after a stressful 3 days of stay , some thing went wrong he ended up with new LV dysfunction.He got discharged fine with a caution  that , his stent needs to intensively monitored for the next 1 year since technically he had recurrent ACS !

Lessons we don’t learn from such cases.

When two procedures are done to accomplish the same aim (Reperfusion) , but with  differing success rates, expertise, time ,and unpredictable hazards , the benefits from them may not add together. There is clear knowledge deficit here. Scientific data can never provide fair answers to  these questions  as all real life cofounders can never be recreated in study population.

While we expect 1+1 to become  two in pharmaco-Invasvie strategy  ,one should realise it may end up with  either zero or even  – 2 .

1 -1 = 0

-1 + (-1)=  -2 ?

Learning cardiology from lay persons 

The patient’s shrewd wife threw this question ,

After two modes of re-perfusion done sequentially in my  husband’s  heart ,  at a total cost of Rs4.5Lakhs Why he  is  still left with significant LV dysfunction (Which was  around 40% EF.)

The query raised by the lady appeared much more crucial and logical than the ones discussed in many top-notch live interventional workshops we attend every few months!

As usual , I started mulling over the issue. There is something wrong with the way , we  understand  the pharmaco invasive approach-PIA .You go with it only if  initial pharmacological  approach has failed.

Of Course ,there is one more modality possible ie Pharmaco -Angio strategy where in, you look at the coronary anatomy and take a call ! This sounds good , the only issue is taking a right call ! My experience suggests wrong calls are the rule and  exceptions are rare. Then a whole new issue erupts about all those non IRA lesions

Final message

So till we have gain complete self-control over our evolved ignorance and evolving knowledge , it is better to follow this proposed  funny new ACS algorithm called “Pharmaco -non invasive” approach (PNIA)  in asymptomatic ACS patients  who have had apparently successful lysis.

*Please note, Incidentally  PNIA actually  refers to simple good old traditional stand alone thrombolysis.

Counter point

No one can deny Interventional cardiology carries a risk of untoward effects.Don’t blow this out of proportion. Do you know, how many lives have been saved by routine Pharmaco -Invasive approach ?

I am not sure , my experience may be limited.Let me ask the readers. Is routine PIA is warranted in all asymptomatic , successfully lysed STEMIs ?

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Here is an Interaction between  a ER physician  and a cardiologist !


“I should say I am happy for this cartoon cardiologist , It at least thinks , verifies ECG . . . and resists entry for a dubious STEMI to cath lab ”


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This paper was presented as a poster (Not good enough for  oral ! ) in the just concluded CSI 2016  (Cardiological society of India ) Annual conference at Kochi, India.


What constitutes successful  Primary PCI ?   A proposal to include “ LV dysfunction”  as an  essential  criteria !

A  series of breakthrough technologies  in drugs , devices, techniques has revolutionised the management of STEMI in modern times.This  includes various formats of heparin , antiplatelet agents thrombolytics  and coronary interventions.Of all these, primary PCI is considered to be the greatest thing to happen in STEMI care.

The success of primary PCI is currently defined as diameter stenosis less than 30% and TIMI 3 flow on final angiography without procedural complication. True success of reperfusion essentially lies  in the salvage of myocardium and in the prevention of LV dysfunction. In real world scenario we often find a paradox , ie Inspite of  successful pPCI by current definition a subset of patients suffer from significant  LV dysfunction. Surprisingly, LV dysfunction has  never been included in the definition of successful primary PCI .


In this context we did a reversed cohort  study  of patients with significant LV dysfunction (<40%) following primary PCI to find out possible factors contributing to LV dysfunction.10 patients who had LV dysfunction inspite of successful primary PCI were the subjects of the study. Patients with late PCI  beyond 12  hours were excluded .Echocardioraphy had been done at discharge and 2 weeks after the procedure to assess LV function.

TIMI  3  flow  has been  documented in all  patients at the time of primary PCI.6 patients had undergone pPCI within 6 hours.4 had it by 12 hours. 7 patients had a smooth , fast  pPCI as described by standard protocol.Of these,  2 patients had LV dysfunction inspite of TIMI 3 flow established early.7 patients 3 had complex angioplasty with no reflow managed subsequently.One had deferred stenting after 4 days for IRA.Non IRA lesion were also  tackled in two.

We also confirmed  there is no linear no correlation  between TIMI flow and  subsequent LV function .This becomes vital as time and again we are seeing PCI reports with successful TIMI 3 flow only to find  weeks later  thinned scarred ventricle. Time to reperfuse with anticipated and unanticipated procedural delay  was also  a critical  factor.

However, its clear the  incidence of significant LV dysfunction inspite of  timely, and apparently smooth  PCI is real .Why this happens is beyond the current reasoning. A scientific basis for  individual myocardial sensitivity to ischemic time is yet to be found. (Dynamic host dependent time window ?)

Meanwhile , It seems prudent , we should awake to a harsh reality of practicing coronary care  with a seemingly incomplete criteria for success of pPCI . Its proposed,  an  acceptable levels of  “LV dysfunction at discharge ” (It could be > 50 %) as an essential criteria  to define the success of pPCI  .Custodians of STEMI care should  immediately rectify this glaring omission. This will dramatically impact the current  outcome analysis of STEMI and help Improve the quality of care.

Conference bulletins


E-PosterPresentationSat10thDec csi cohin 2016

Session – Preview 

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Reperfusion arrhythmia was described originally  in the thrombolytic era .

It can be any of the the following .

  • AIVR(Accelerated Idio Ventricular rhythm)
  • Sinus bradycardia (In Infero posterior MI )
  •  VF can occur as  Re-perfusion  arrhythmia.

Does these arrhythmia occur following primary PCI ?

It should  isn’t ? 

In fact it  must be  more pronounced  as we  believe PCI is far superior modality for reperfusion !

Busy Interventional  cardiologists  of the current era  either do not  look for it or fail to document it . These arrhythmias occurs only  with early Primary PCI (Say less than 2-3 hours) .If re-perfusion arrhythmias are  really less common with primary PCI , are we missing some thing ?



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This  query often  evokes  confusion  among fellows and General physicians .

              The answer is simple .Yes ,  you can.(With few conditions)

  • Thrombolysis  or PCI  is  done  with reference to  the  presence  or absence of ST elevation and chest pain.
  • If there is ongoing chest pain  and  significant new onset ST elevation  thrombolysis or PCI is indicated whether there is associated q  waves or not.

Clinical situations 

 Ischemic  q waves: Q wave can occur  with transmural ischemia which result in electrical stunning and loss of R waves . (Many of them  regenerate this R within few days after STEMI ,  indicating the q  waves can be  ischemic  in origin)

Reinfarction : Patients with  old  MI can develop fresh ST elevation  in q leads due to tachycardia and dyskinetic infarct segment .This group  of patients  should be carefully evaluated before labeling them as  re-infarction

* q RBBB in early hours of  anterior STEMI is fairly common which  may revert later. qRBBB is not a contraindication for re-perfusion .

Final  message

Presence of q waves does not  imply one should not  entertain  thrombolysis or PCI .The decision  to reperfuse  , rather  goes with  presence of  chest pain , ST elevation and  of course  within the  acceptable   time window!

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.The  forgotten “Gem of a study” from lancet 2002 .

The fight between Primary angioplasty and thrombolysis was actually over in 2002 itself. But the cardiology community failed to ,( rather reluctant ) to accept the truth. The issue is being dragged without any useful purpose (for the patient !)  still trying to keep up the non existing superiority of pPCI.

A bolus thrombolytic agent (TPA/RPA) or even streptokinase  can do almost the same if not better than a highly complex procedure called  Primary PCI with lots of logistics issues and most important an unacceptable early procedure related  hazard.

Timely lysis can kick pPCI out of the ring . . . in three aspects with 100% certainty !

1.If symptom to TIMI 2/3 flow in IRA is the true parameter of success .pPCI can never ever come closer to pre hospital lysis.

2.The poor lytics do not differentiate in the efficacy . It simply acts whoever administer it. While results of pPCI are never reproducible and lots of expertise involved.

3.Thrombolytic agents never need to bother  about the complexity of lesions , (or  where is the IRA dilemma ? Is it a CTO or ATO confusion etc ) for the simple reason it doesn’t need to think before acting. It does its job fast.

What did CAPTIM prove ?

  • It proved pPCI has no mortality advantage over pre hospital lysis.
  • Perhaps the most Important conclusion from CAPTIM is pre hospital lysis significantly reduced  number of new onset cardiogenic shock . This alone nullifies the self inflicted pseudoscientific delay wasting the golden hour in the process ! (By the way who fixed the arbitrary acceptable delay conferred to pPCI of I hour .The whole evidence base for this delay to be scrutinised in view of CAPTIM !)

Final message

It is an irony,  a simple intravenous push of a drug (Thrombolytic agent)  very early after an STEMI can save many patients and reduce complication rate .But because it is simple ,it is considered  inferior .

Probably the only role for pPCI is high risk complicated STEMI at presentation or after an attempt of lysis has not stabilised the patient.(Where its referred to as Pharamco Invasive strategy )

2018 update

This post was originally posted in 2008. Now as I see this in 2018 . It is shocking  to know we haven’t  learnt any lesson from this study for 16 years since its published.

In this era of medical  commerce and  simple ,cheap ,and effective treatment can never compete with  sophisticated , glamorous , less effective  treatment modalities !

Read the full version of CAPTIM and comments

Comparison of Angioplasty and Prehospital Thrombolysis in Acute Myocardial Infarction (CAPTIM) study group, are published in the September 14, 2002 issue of theLancet.

Primary angioplasty “no better” than prehospital fibrinolysis: CAPTIM

London, UK – In a finding that would appear to go against the swelling tide of support for primary angioplasty as the treatment of choice for acute MI, investigators comparing primary angioplasty with prehospital administration of alteplase with rescue angioplasty have concluded that the 2 strategies are comparable. The results, from the Comparison of Angioplasty and Prehospital Thrombolysis in Acute Myocardial Infarction(CAPTIM) study group, are published in the September 14, 2002 issue of theLancet.1

“Our findings indicate that primary angioplasty is no better than prehospital fibrinolysis followed by transfer for possible emergency coronary angioplasty in patients presenting within 6 hours of an acute myocardial infarction,” the researchers, led by Dr Eric Bonnefoy and Dr Paul Touboul(Hopital Louis Pradel, Hospices Civils de Lyon, Lyon, France), write.

However, they point out that cessation of funding during the trial resulted in a lower-than-expected enrollment, 840 of 1200 planned patients, reducing their statistical power. “The CI (confidence interval) for the primary end point shows that there could be a real difference in the treatment effects,” they write.

Still, the researchers feel their conclusion is valid. “This was and is for us a very pragmatic question for our care system in France,” Bonnefoy told heartwire. “Is our current management, with prehospital thrombolysis with transfer, in a time when primary angioplasty is promoted as the best-of-the-best treatment, still sufficient? Even if the power of the study is lower than expected, we think that we have our answer, and we can go on with that practice.”

The strategy also means less strain on their cath labs, Bonnefoy added, since only 1 in 4 patients underwent rescue angioplasty. A cost analysis comparing the 2 strategies is currently being carried out.

Earlier thrombolysisPrevious studies comparing primary angioplasty with in-hospital thrombolysis have shown a “definite, albeit modest” benefit of angioplasty over thrombolysis, with lower rates of recurrent infarction and higher patency rates, Bonnefoy et al write. However, it does impose additional treatment delays, and “delay to treatment is an essential consideration for any revascularization strategy.”
In France, where this multicenter trial was carried out, ambulance crews include a physician, and so thrombolysis with intravenous tPA is possible in the prehospital setting. In this trial, they randomized MI patients to either prehospital administration of accelerated alteplase or primary angioplasty and transferred all of the patients to a center where emergency angioplasty could be carried out if it were determined that thrombolysis had not been successful.
The primary end point was a composite of death, nonfatal reinfarction, and nonfatal disabling stroke at 30 days, with analysis by intention to treat.
Of the 840 patients, 419 were randomized to prehospital fibrinolysis and 421 to primary angioplasty. Rescue angioplasty was used “liberally,” they write, in 26% of patients assigned to fibrinolysis.

Time to treatment, as expected, was longer in the primary angioplasty group: the median delay between onset of symptoms and treatment was 130 minutes in the prehospital fibrinolysis group, and time to first balloon inflation was 190 minutes in the angioplasty group.

At 30 days, there was no significant difference in the primary end point between groups. Overall mortality was lower than expected, they note. Deaths were fewer in the prehospital thrombolysis group, but mortality was not significantly different between groups. There was a trend toward less reinfarction and less disabling stroke favoring the primary angioplasty strategy.

CAPTIM: Primary end point



Prehospital fibrinolysis    


Primary angioplasty    


Risk difference (95% CI)    




Composite end point 8.2% 6.2% 1.96
Mortality 3.8% 4.8% -0.93
Reinfarction 3.7% 1.7% 1.99
Disabling stroke 1.0% 0 1.00

To download table as a slide, click on slide logo below

Among secondary end points, the researchers noted a nonsignificant trend toward a higher frequency of cardiogenic shockthe most common cause of death in this studyin the primary angioplasty group, noting that cardiogenic shock between randomization and hospital admission occurred only in that group.

The CAPTIM results were first presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in September 2001 and reported by heartwire.


Strong wordsIn an accompanying commentary, Dr Gregg W Stone (Lenox Hill Heart and Vascular Institute, New York, NY) calls the CAPTIM results “the latest salvo in the ‘primary PTCA vs thrombolytic therapy wars’,” a “well-designed and carried out” trial.2
“Unfortunately,” because of funding issues and slow enrollment, the trial ended before the planned recruitment of 1200 patients that would have been required to show a 40% reduction in the primary end point with primary PTCA, he writes. “Nonetheless, the results demonstrate a trend toward a 24% relative reduction in the occurrence of adverse events favoring the interventional strategy, driven by strong reductions in reinfarction and stroke (which would be expected, after all, to be largely independent of reperfusion time),” Stone notes.
He attributes the lack of mortality benefit from primary angioplasty to the lower-than-expected mortality risk in this population, since the survival benefit of primary angioplasty is seen primarily in the highest-risk patients, the elderly and those with anterior MIs or shock. The lack of mortality benefit, though, “does not diminish the clinical relevance of fewer strokes, reinfarctions, a reduction in urgent revascularization procedures, and the shorter hospital stay” seen with the interventional strategy in this and other studies, he writes.
Perhaps the most novel finding is the reduction in early-onset cardiogenic shock with prehospital thrombolysis, a result that “adds fuel to the fire calling for facilitated primary PTCA trials.” However, several trials of the combined approach to date have shown it to be either inferior to or no better than primary PTCA, he notes. Even in CAPTIM, prehospital thrombolysis was supported by rescue angioplasty in 26% of patients, and Stone speculates these patients may have been “better off” if they had simply been transferred for routine immediate primary PTCA.

“Thus, until the large trials of facilitated PTCA are completed (none of which have even begun enrolling), the best therapy for most patients with evolving AMI should no longer be debated; administer antiplatelet therapy (aspirin, a thienopyridine, and possibly abciximab), withhold thrombolytic therapy, and transfer the patient for primary PTCA, regardless of whether the nearest catheterization suite is 3 floors or 3 hours away,” Stone concludes.

“To do less should no longer be considered standard care. Strong words, yes, but it is time for a wake-up call.”


CAPTIM researchers respondAsked to respond, Bonnefoy pointed out that “Dr Stone is surely a primary angioplastician and very convinced, but it’s quite ideological. CAPTIM is quite pragmatic. His arguments are acceptable, but they are not convincing; that is his opinion rather than scientific data.”
Bonnefoy asserts that no study has clearly demonstrated the superiority in terms of mortality of primary angioplasty over prehospital thrombolysis. “And in CAPTIM, we have the surprise and intriguing observation to have lower mortality in the prehospital thrombolysis groupit may be hazard, but it is present.”
Moreover, while high-risk patients may benefit from primary angioplasty, high-risk patients do not represent the majority of the MI population. In patients such as those in the CAPTIM study, he said, “our conclusions are quite valid.”



  1. Primary angioplasty versus prehospital fibrinolysis in acute myocardial infarction: a randomized study2002; 360:825-829
  2. Primary angioplasty versus “earlier” thrombolysis–time for a wake-up call2002; 360:814-815

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