Conference Coverage

What 2019’s top five CAD trials tell us




This study randomized more than 4,000 patients with ST-segment elevation MI (STEMI) and multivessel disease to primary PCI of the culprit lesion only or to staged complete revascularization via PCI of all angiographically significant nonculprit lesions. Complete revascularization proved to be the superior strategy, with a 26% reduction in the risk of the composite of cardiovascular death or MI at a median of 3 years (N Engl J Med. 2019 Oct 10;381[15]:1411-21).

The optimal timing of the staged procedure remains unclear, since the study didn’t specify a protocol.

“I’m still a bit uncomfortable doing multivessel PCI at 2 o’clock in the morning in the setting of STEMI in someone I’ve never met before. I don’t think there’s a rush to do anything then. Often in this middle-of-the-night stuff, we miss things or we overinterpret things. I think it’s better to let the patient cool down, get to know them,” according to Dr. Bell.


Publication of the 5-year outcomes of the largest-ever randomized trial of PCI versus coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) for left main coronary disease has led to furious controversy, with a few of the surgeons involved in the study opting to publically broadcast allegations of misbehavior on the part of the interventional cardiologist study leadership, charges that have been strongly denied.

The actual results are in line with findings reported from smaller randomized trials. At 5 years in EXCEL, there was no significant difference between the PCI and CABG groups in the primary composite endpoint of death, cerebrovascular accident, or MI (N Engl J Med. 2019 Nov 7;381[19]:1820-30). The all-cause mortality rate was 13% in the PCI arm and 9.9% with CABG, but this finding comes with a caveat.

“I’ll emphasize this trial was never powered to look at mortality. Neither were any of the other randomized trials. On the other hand, I don’t think you can necessarily ignore the finding of an absolute 3.1% difference,” Dr. Bell said.

PCI and CABG are both very good, mature therapies for left main disease, in his view. In the setting of more-complex coronary disease in younger patients, he often views the complete revascularization offered by surgery as the preferred option. On the other hand, in an 80-year-old with severe comorbidities, clearly PCI is attractive.

He considers the highly public nature of this interspecialty spat a regrettable black eye for the entire field of cardiovascular medicine. And he predicted that an ongoing outside neutral-party review of the study data and procedures will conclude, as he has, “there was no malfeasance at all in the trial.”

Dr. Bell reported having no financial conflicts regarding his presentation.

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