Posts Tagged ‘rescue thrombolysis’

How early one can shift a patient for rescue PCI after failed thrombolysis ?

  1.  Wait for at-least 24  hours.
  2. A minimum  cool off period of 2 hours is required.
  3. It is never an issue . Rush the patient  immediately to cath lab
  4. The question does not arise  . Often times ,  rescue PCI is a dead concept  as  sufficient damage has happened !


The irony of  medical science  lies in our belief that every medical query  has a specific answer ! In reality it is rarely true.   In this instance , any of  the above can be a correct response.

A patient with  failed thrombolysis can belong to any of the  64 possible combinations*  based on  time of  thrombolysis , extent of  MI,  associated complications, co- morbid conditions , presence of symptoms . (For example there is  a sub groups of patient with  failed thrombolysis still  asymptomatic  and comfortable )

The issues for rescue PCI  do not  arise  in a   sinking STEMI (Cardiogenic shock ) , or  STEMI with persistent angina. There  is  no  management issues in  these patients  .They need to be rushed to cath lab. Unfortunately  in  impending  LVF or manifest LVF (But not in shock )  decision making is tough , as doing a PCI in patients  with basal crackles  and hypoxia is a real challenge .These are the patients who are likely  to hit hard  from the hazards of the procedure .Extreme caution is required.

I have seen  significant cohort  of  asymptomatic hypotensive patients getting converted into   drug resistant, IABP dependent refractory shock after PCI  ,  making every one look  pathetic  !  The  only solace for the interventionist  is  the gratification  of  stenting the  IRA !

This  happens  , in spite  of having  multi national trained  in house critical care anesthetics and  dual core processing IABP  . Realise  what we need is delicate decision making ,  So use extreme diligence in selecting patients with impeding shock .

Your medical management can  provide  more teeth to stabilise your patient than a PCI .If you are doubt discuss with your learned colleagues .  ( If you  do not  ask for evidence for  this statement , probably  it would confirm  you  as  an  experienced   cardiologist  !)

Real issues pushed to the sidelines ?

While the real issue  in the timing of rescue PCI  may be  different , the discussion traditionally  revolves around   hemo-rheological aspects . We know  the lytics and PCI do not combine well for two reasons.

  • Pro-coagulant nature of lytic state .
  • Excess bleeding risk at puncture site.

Now ,  we have evidence to say fibrin specific lytics  TPA, TNKTPA has less of this issue . ( NORDISTEMI)

Patients who receive  fibrin specific lytics  can  safely  be  taken for rescue PCI  in case it is needed without any increased risk .

Bleeding complication  has dramatically reduced as radial procedures are done often even in emergency setting.

Vascular occlusive devices  have added to our comfort.

* The definition of failed  thrombolysis by  itself is not standardized . Is it symptom guided ?  or ECG / enzyme / echo guided  ? A patient with  infarct  related chest pain (dull aching )  after thromolysis can be labeled as post infarct refractory angina and rushed for emergency angiogram .(This is due to our ignorance  about  the  residual pain signals  through  type c pain fibres  for up to 24 hours )

Final message

The indication and  timing of rescue PCI is  primarily  related   to the  overall   patient profile  rather than the bleeding or pro-coagulant issues .

Although   pro-coagulant  lytic state is based on weak scientific  foundation , it  is a blessing in disguise  as it  can  act  as a deterrent  in restricting  inappropriate rescue PCI !

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Failed thrombolysis is an important clinical  issue  in STEMI   as  successful thrombolysis  occurs  only in  about 50-60%  of pateints . The typical criteria to define failed thrombolysis is  the  regression  of less than 50% of sum total( or maximum)  ST elevation in infarct leads.

So what do you do for these patients with failed thrombolysis ?

It depends upon the patient’s symptom, hemodynamic stability, LV dysfunction .

They  should  get one of the following .

  1. Conservative medical management  with /without CAG
  2. Repeat thrombolysis
  3. Rescue PCI
  4. CABG

Medical management is  thought to be  too inferior a  management,  many of the interventional cardiologists  do  not want to talk about . But  , there is  an important  group of patients (Not often addressed in cardiology literature)  who  technically fulfill the criteria  of failed thrombolysis  , but   still  very  comfortable , asymtomatic  and in  class 1. These patients ,  have  a strong option for continuing the conservative management .

Repeat thrombolysis does not have a consistent effect but can  be  tried in some  stable patients. CABG  can be a genuine option in few

Rescue PCI

This terminology  has become  the  glamorous one since the  catchy word  rescue is tagged in the title  itself. For most of the cardiac physicians ,  this has become the default treatment modality.This is an unfortunate perception . What  one should realise   here is  , we are  tying to rescue  the myocardium and  the patient ,   not the patient’s coronary artery !

Opening up a coronary obstruction is not synonymous with rescue .

For rescue PCI ,  to be effective it should be done within the same time window as that for thrombolysis (ie within 6 or at the most  12 hours) .This timing  is  of vital importance  for the simple reason , there will be nothing to rescue after 12 hours as most of the muscle  would be  dead. Reperfusing a dead myocardium has been shown to be hazardous in some ,  as it converts a simple  infarct into a hemorrhagic  infarct.This softens the core of the infarct and  carry a risk of rupture. Further,   doing a complex emergency  PCI  ,  in  a thrombotic milieu with   presumed  long term  benefit ,  is  a  perfect recipe for a potential  disaster.

While the above statement may be seen as pessimistic view , the optimistic cardiologist would vouch for the“Curious  open artery hypothesis” .This theory simply states , whatever be the status  of the distal myocardium ( dead or alive !)   opening an obstruction in the concerened coronary artery  will benefit the patient !

It is  huge surprise , this concept   continues to  be alive even after  repeatedly shot dead by number of very good clinical trials (TOAT, CTO limb of COURAGE etc ).

The REACT study (2004) concluded undisputed benefit of rescue PCI for failed thrombolysis  , only if the rescue was done  within  5-10 hours after the onset of symptoms.The mean time for  pain-to-rescue PCI was 414 minutes (6.5hours)

Final  message

It is fashionable to talk about time window for thrombolyis but not for PCI  .The time window for rescue PCI is an redundant issue  for many  cardiologists ! . But ,  the fact of the matter is ,  it is not . . .

The concept of time window in rescue PCI  , is as important as ,   that of  thrombolysis. Please , think twice or thrice !  if some body suggest you to do a rescue PCI in a stable patient  ,  12hours after the index event .

Important note : This rule   does not (  or need  not  ) apply for patients in cardiogenic shock  or patient ‘s with ongoing iscemia and angina.

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 Rescue thrombolysis in acute   myocardial   Infarction  

 *Venkatesan sangareddi ,Madras medical college,Chennai.India



   Back ground  Failed thrombolysisin acute myocardial infarction occurs in 30-40% of patients. The incidence of progressive pathological remodelling and cardiac failure is high in these patients. The approach to the patient with failed thrombolysis is generally considered to be catheter based and the outcome is not clear. Bleeding can be troublesome in patients, taken for interventional procedures in the immediate post thrombolytic state. The option of repeat thrombolysis has not been studied widely and is not popular among cardiologists.

Methods:We present our experience with six patients (Age 42-56, M-6, F-0) who were thrombolysed for failed first thrombolysis. All had anterior MI and had received either urokinse or streptokinase (between four to nine hours) after the onset of chest pain. All of them had persistent ST elevation, angina not responsive to maximal doses of IV NTG and beta blockers. The initial thrombolysis was deemed to have failed. Repeat thrombolysis with streptokinase (15 lakhs) was given between 16 and 24 th hour. The clinical outcome following the second thrombolysis was rewarding. It relieved the angina, ST segment elevation came down by 50% and coronary angiogram done at 2-4 weeks showed complete IRA patency in four out of six patients. The factors responsible for failed thrombolysis is complex and multifactorial. A logical explanation from the fundamentals of clinical pharmacology would suggest that a common cause of failure of any drug is due to a inadequate first dose.

Conclusion :We conclude that repeat (Rescue) thrombolysis can be an effective medical intervention for failed thrombolysis in AMI.

Personal perspective                  

                             Repeat  thrombolysis for failed ( initial ) thrombolysis  is still   considered  a  fantasy treatment  by most of the cardiologists !  The utility and efficacy of this modality of  treatment (Rescue thrombolyis ) , will never be known to humanity , as planning  such a  study , in a large population  would  promptly be  called unethical by the modern day cardiologists.

                     While a cathlab based cardiologist  take on the lesion head on with multiple attempts  , it is an irony , poor  thrombolytic agents are given only one shot  and if failed in the first attempt,  it is doomed to be a  failure for ever.Currently,  the incidence of  failed thromolysis could be up to a whooping 50 %  .There has not been much scientific initiative  to enhance the efficacy of these drugs.

                            Common sense and logic would suggest it  is the  inadequate first dose ,  improper delivery , pharmacokinetics is   the major cause of failure of action of  a drug in clinical therapeutics.

If the first  dose is not working ,  always think about another  incremental dose if found safe to administer.

Can we increase the dose of thrombolytic agents  as we like ? Will it not increase the bleeding risk to dangerous levels ?

This is a clinical trial  question.

  • In patients with prosthetic valve thrombosis and acute pulmonary embolism we have safety data of administering of  1 lakh units for an hour for up to 48 hours.

Can  the same regimen be tried in STEMI if the initial thrombolysis has  failed  and emergency intervention is not possible  ?

Logic would say yes . Unfortunately we can’t go with logic alone in medicine .We need scientific data ( with or without logic ! ).But now ,  as we realise common sense is also a integral part of therapeutics  It is called as level 3 evidence / expert consensus by AHA/ACC .

Applying  mind , to all relevant issues ,  continuous streptokinase infusion 1 lakh/hour for 24-48 hours in patients with failed thrombolysis can indeed be an option,  especially when the patient is sinking and  no immediate catheter based intervention  possible .This study question is open to all researchers , and may be tested in a scientific setting if feasible.

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