Posts Tagged ‘cabg vs PCI’

Coronary  atherosclerosis is the number one killer of mankind. Many would consider it as an  essential  process of aging .Modern  life styles and habits make this appear  very early in life . There is currently an endemic (or even  a pandemic ) of   CAD due to premature  atherosclerosis. We need to recognise CAD is not a  primary heart disease  .It is an irony, heart is an  innocent bystander  to the  biological derangement  of coronary  vascular system  when  it is infested with atherosclerotic plaques .

So , when we  are confronted  with  serious atherosclerotic lesions in a coronary artery   what shall we do ?

We have three options

  1. Take on the enemy in a direct confrontation (Like war on terror ) : This is  some times called as Interventional cardiology .Caution is required as the battle  is within the human coronary artery ,  cross fires and collateral  damage  are unavoidable.

2 .Next  method  is to  find the basic cause  of  terrorism , identify  the perpetuates, facilitators    and try to correct the   root cause of it (CAD ) .This approach  also refered to as medical management  in cardiology community*  . It  aims  at regression of plaque  by statins, and life style modification and preventive cardiology. This modality is most ridiculed and  insulted by the main stream cardiologists.

*Comparable to  bilateral peace talks for a political solution to terror

3. And third option is a  real  surprise !   This  neither  confronts   the lesion   nor does it  address the initiating factors . It   just ignores  the lesion and by pass it with a LIMA /SVG  fly over ,  as if  nothing has happened in this vital high way leaving the culprit scot-free  .This option is  executed by surgeons as  CABG surgery . . . and  for mysterious reasons  this is a  well accepted one .

CABG :Here the atherosclerotic  burden is untouched by surgery . The graft can get diseased  sooner or later , native vessel disease  shall  progress some times encroaching  the ostia of distal graft site . Incidence of acute coronary syndrome following CABG is not greatly reduced for the simple reason we are not doing anything primarily to the inflamed plaques .These issues  are left ,  to be  taken care by the  medical  management .

* This article  does not want to defame these great development in cardiology(PCI/CABG) . They have a  specific role to play. CABG AND PCI remain the only option for critical  lesions with limiting angina .But please remember without  proper  medical management  ( ie Targeting  the perpetuates of  crime )  both  PCI and CABG will be a big sham !

Final  message

Avoiding   the  lesion  or  attacking the lesion  is a  primitive  method to tackle CAD  . Passifying   the lesions  in a slow and gentle manner,   preventing  further progression  or regression  of lesions is the only  “sane” method for combating CAD   . PCI and by pass surgeries  can be termed  as  21st century’s   medical  adventure sports  which  has  limited role ,  in the overall control  of CAD  for the human kind .

And  now  answer this question . . .

Cardiologists attack the lesion and  surgeon avoids the lesion ?  Who is the winner in our fight against CAD  ?

Both of them are  clear losers .The winners are  all those  humble physicians and parmedical workers (or even the responsible lay public ) who  help recognise  the early forms  of  CAD  and  counsel properly to prevent it .

This is  what  Dean Ornish   in 1991  documented in  Lancet  which was never considered scientific   for the simple reason it has no commercial value !




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CAD management has been riddled with controversy for over decades. Should we  revascularise  all  obstructive CAD  we encounter ? Logic and scientific presumptions argued a strong case for it , and hence most of these patient population got some form  of revascularisation .(PCI or CABG ) .

This continued for years  till COURAGE study threw a shocker !  ie  medical management is as good as any from revascularisation in stable angina patients. While , the cardiology community was divided over the COURAGE conclusion ,  here comes another shocker  from the New England journal of medicine  ( June 2009 ) ,  against  revascularisation  The BARI 2D  trial . It shattered  the ultimate  myth,    in  diabetic  CAD patients  , neither PCI nor CABG  has  survival advantage among   diabetic population .

bari 2d  pci coronary

The art of  unlearning  cardiology:

The beauty of  evidence based medicine (EBM )  is  ,  genuine science  will ultimately   prevail  over  pseudo science. But  the danger with  EBM  is  , it   conquers the  truth  in it’s own time frame .In the process ,  EBM has to overcome so many hurdles , both natural , man made,  advertent or  inadvertent but ultimately truth must triumph  , at least we hope it triumphs . In the intervening time ,  it   has become   absolutely essential ,   for the   humans  to  suffer . The only way ,  mankind ,  can be protected  from  this deadly game of EBM  is that ,  our physicians  should have  the  inherent  fore- sight to identify &  ignore the “Would be doomed evidence” !

There are many such physicians  in this world . . . who  ignore  some of the  standard  scientific  guidelines  for the betterment of their patients


1.NEJM article June 11 20o9

2.Journal watch cardiology

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Can we advice CABG for single vessel disease  ?

Yes, CABG  may be indicated  in

  • Critical , proximal , complex  LAD disease   with or without  ostium involvement.
  • Many of the bifurcation lesions with large and significant  side branch
  • Small caliber LAD with diffuse disease .

When these occur  in diabetic  subjects , the  indication for CABG is more certain .

* Present generation cardiologists  would feel  every  lesion  is  stentable and should not be referred to the surgeon .But it should be emphasized here,   technical feasibility alone  ,  does not  imply  PCI is superior and ideal in all coronary interventions.

Can we do a CABG  in  single vessel disease  with  normal  LAD ?

CABG is  very rarely  indicated   for isolated RCA or LCX disease. It should be consciously avoided in this patient population.

This is because the at risk myocardium  supplied by these vessels are far less than that of LAD. PCI  is  preferred    in these vessels .(Ofcourse , after considering medical management  ) .

CABG is  ,  too traumatic a  surgery , to  offer  in this  low  risk  coronary  lesions.


CABG  can still be done in following situations  for non LAD single vessel disease.

  • Left dominant circulation  with  complex lesions in LCX /OMs.
  • It is common to see diffuse , long segment  and severe disease of RCA with normal LAD /LCX system .PCI is not feasible in this subset.
  • Failed PCI
  • Recurrent instent restenosis.
  • Bail out CABG after a acute complication during PCI

One should remember ,  inability to do a PCI  does not  mean ,  the patient  should   land in surgeon’s table .We should recall , from our memory medical management is an effective and established form of treatment in single vessel disease ( Mainly for non LAD , and some cases of LAD also !)

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