Posts Tagged ‘angioplasty’

                                                    Drugs are poisons , whenever it is administered without valid purpose. it can enter human body  in many ways (Oral, intravenous, percutaneous etc ) And now we have another route namely intracoronary !

                                                   In quest for prevention of restenosis, many of the anti cancer drugs are now delivered directly inside the coronary arteries .These drugs are secreted  like a sustained release  tablet from the drug coated stents.These drugs are expected to prevent restenosis within the stented segment.But, after years of  intense debate and research  , we realised that ,  drugs  eluted from the stent  could damage the distal coronary vascular bed and coronary microcirculation.( And thus came the epidemic of acute stent thrombosis ! )

                                                The tender and sensitive coronary microvasculature  is constantly exposed to  these  powerful anticancer and immmunosuppresive  drugs .It is a great surprise , no body thought of  this dangerous drug -coronary artery interaction ! It required the genius of Renu virmani and others to point out this.

But still , the cardiology community by and large , fails to consider  this an important issue.This is proven by the fact, usage of DES is  still increasing  and used mainly as an off label indication.

Read this land mark article from circulation




Questions that need to be answered

  • What is the long term effects of drugging a coronary artery ?
  • Is no reflow or slow flow  more common after DES , because of the adverse drug reaction in the distal vascular bed ?
  • If a patient  with  DES  undergoes a CABG later what  would be  the impact of the  drug on the graft ? Will the functional vasodilatation   affected ?

Final message

                                  A drug , to get a legal clearance it has to undergo  hundreds of rigorous tests . Finally it is cleared for that  specific indication for which it is tested  .Just because a drug is cleared for one purpose ( Paclitaxel for malignancy ) it does not mean it is safe to use for any other  purpose for which it is deemed to be useful . Exactly the  opposite is happening   in the  the field of interventional cardiology . No body wondered to think what would be the effect of these drugs on the normal coronary endothelial cells and vasculature.Is it not a crime ,  without analysing this particular issue  , dozens of drug eluting stents have been released in the market . And now,  sounds of crying  foul is heard world wide !

Let us thank  , the so called negative forces in cardiology  for making this an  issue . In science ,  the watch dogs should bark  at  times of danger not wag the tail !

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              Intra coronary thrombosis is the sine qua non of acute coronary syndrome ( Both STEMI and NSTEMI.) But thrombolysis is the specific therapy in STEMI and is contraindicated in NSTEMI/UA.

Why is this apparent paradox ? What is basic differnce between UA and AMI ?

In STEMI there is a sudden & total occlusion of a coronary artery usually by a thrombus with or without a plaque .The immediate aim is to open up the blood vessel . Every minute is important as myocardium undergoes  a continuous process ischemic necrosis. So thrombolysis (or more specifically fibrinolysis should be attempted immediately) .The other option is primary angioplasty,  which will not be discussed here.

The thrombus in STEMI  is RBC &  fibrin rich and often called a red clot. Number of fibrinolytic agents like streptokinase, Tissue palsminogen activator,(TPA) Reteplace, Tenekteplace etc have been tested and  form the cornerstone of STEMI management.The untoward effect of stroke  during  thrombolysis  is well recognised , but usully the risk benefit ratio favors thrombolyis in most situations except in very elderly and previous history of stroke or bleeding disorder.

Unstable angina is a  close companion of STEMI . Many times it precedes STEMI often called preinfarction angina. During this phase blood flow in the coronary artery  becomes sluggish gradually,and patients develop  angina at rest .But unlike STEMI there is never a total occlusion and myocardium  is viable but ischemic,  and emergency salvaging of myocardium is not a therapeutic aim but prevention of MI becomes an aim. It is a paradox of sorts ,  even though thrombus is present in  UA ,  It has been learnt by experience thrombolytic agents are not useful in preventing an MI .


Why  thrombolysis is not useful in UA ?

1.In unstable angina  mechanical obstruction in the form of plaque fissure/rupture is more common than completely occluding thrombus. So lysis becomes less important.

2. Even if the thrombus is present , it is often intra plaque  or intra lesional and the  luminal  projection of thrombus is reduced  and hence thromolytic agents have limited area to act.

3.Further in UA/NSTEMI since it is a slow and gradual occlusion (Unlike sudden & total occlusion in STEMI) the platelets  get marginalised and trapped within the plaque .Hence in UA  thrombus is predominantly  white  . Often, a central platelet core  is  seen over which fibrin clot may also be  formed.

4.All available  thrombolytic agents act basically as a fibrinolytic agents,  and   so it finds   difficult to lyse the platelet rich clot.There is also a small risk of these agents lysing the fibrin cap and exposing underlying platelet  core and trigger a fresh thrombus.This has been documented in many trials( TIMI 3b to be specific) So if we thrombolyse in UA , there could be a risk of recurrent ACS episodes in the post thrombolytic phase.

5. UA is a semi emergency where  there is no race against time to salvage myocardium .Administering a  stroke prone thrombolytic agent tilts the risk benefit ratio against it.

6. Among UA, there is a significant group of secondary /perioperative UA   due to increased demand situations. Here there is absolutely no role for any thromolytic agents,  the  simple reason is , there is  no thrombus to get lysed. 

7.Many of the UA patient have multivessel CAD and might require surgical revascualarisation directly .


So fibrinolytic  agents are contraindicated in UA so what is the next step ?

The emergence of  intensive and aggressive platelet-lytic agents.

A combination of aspirin, clopidogrel, heparin, glycoprotien 2b 3a antagonist formed the major therapeutic protocol in these patients.Even though these are called antiplalet agents some of them  like 2b/3a antagonist eptifibatide, tirofiban, and many times even heparin has a potential to dissolve a thrombus. So technically one can call these agents  as thrombolytic agents.

What are the unresolved issues

                                       Even though clinical trials have convincingly shown thrombolytic agents  have no use in UA .There is a nagging belief  THAT  there could  be group of patients  with UA , still might benefit from thrombolysis as total occlusions have been documented  in some cases with UA.This is  especially true in peri-infarction unstable angina (Pre & post) as there is a fluctuation  between total and subtotal occlusions ) .But bed side recognition of this population is very difficult.

Many would consider this issue as redundant now,  since  most of  these patients  are taken up for emergency revascularisations

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Is it a crime to do a plain balloon angioplasty in 2008 ?

Plain balloon angioplasty,   the greatest  innovation in   cardiology  when it was introduced in 1977 in a Zurich cath lab , has now become an  ugly  word for most of the cardiologist !

Why this turn around ?  Has technology ,  really overtaken a great procedure and made it obsolete now ?

The answer is a definite ” No”

The restenosis which was the villian in the plain old angioplasty has never been overcome even today. Stents initally used as a bail out procedure during  abrupt closure , later it was used conditionally, followed by provisional stenting and now in 2008  we are made to believe  it is mandatory.

When we realised , bare metal stents are equally  bad (If not slightly better ) in arresting the restenosis drug eluting stents came into vogue with a big bang in 2002. It was projected as the ultimate breakthrough in interventional cardiology and  in 5 years the truth was exposed and it not only failed to prevent the restenois but also had a dreaded complication of acute stent thrombosis.

Now we know , metals  inside a coronary artery  carry  a life long  risk of sudden occulusion , and we talk about biodegradable stents (With poly lactic acid ).

 Common sense ( Unscientific truths)  would suggest

Plain balloon angioplasty still has a major role in our global  cardiovascualr population.

Since restenosis is the  only issue here, ( about 30% )  we can choose patients in whom even if restenosis is likely to happen  no major harm is done . A vast majority of chronic stable angina patients  fall in this category.

Aggressive lipid lowering with plain  balloon angioplasty has never been tested properly . In future also it is unlikely,  such trials will be done as it would be considered unethical . But that would be a premature conclusion.

The other major issue is the cost of stenting , the procedure of PCI/PTCA  has become unaffordable for most of the population in developing countries .The primary reason being the PCI without stenting is considered  ” A untouchable” . If only we remove this stigma from the cardiology community   a signiificant population will be benefited.

A patient with chronic stable angina treated with POBA ,if develop further angina after few years , he  is likely to get a recurrence of  relatively safe  stable angina.  While in a post PCI patient  any angina after the procedure becomes a unstable angina ( Braunwald classification)  and requires emergency care . Angina in a  stented patient is can not be taken lightly as  the the course of angina is unpredictable .

POBA in primary PCI ?

Many may think it is a foolish idea . It has been found many times,  when we rush the pateint to   cath lab after a STEMI  we are in for a surprise !. About 30% of times it is a very complex lesion profile  like diffuse disese,  tight bifurcation lesions , loaded with thrombus or a left main disese.

We fail to realise a basic  fact  , the  initial aim of primary PCI is to salvage the myocardium ,and the next comes the prevention of restenosis . It may even , be argued salvaging  myocardium is the only aim ! Myocardial salvage sould be done urgently . And even  removing the thrombus and opening a IRA can be suffice in a patient who is crashing on table.  Of course stenting can be done whenever possible. But for IRAs which has complex anatomy attempting a perfect stent PCI   (Some may require more than few stents)  as an emergency procedure invariably affects the outcome. One should spend  shortest possible time  inside the  illfated coronary artery. Prolonged manipulations within the coronary artery in an unstable patient  aiming at  longterm patency of an IRA  is to be avoided .The pending procedures can always planned in a next stage. 

Final message

So it is not a crime to think about plain balloon  angioplasty  in some of  our  patients  with acute or chronic coronary syndromes .  Hope Gruentzig  is listening from the heaven and hopefully agree with me !

Dr.S.Venkatesan, madras medical college, chennai, India .

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