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Int J Cardiovasc Intervent. 1999;2(4):223-230.

Safety and efficacy of treatment with platelet GPIIb/IIIa receptor blockade in unstable angina patients awaiting PTCA at a referring clinic.

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  • 1Department of Cardiology, Free University Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Although balloon angioplasty has assumed an important role in the management of refractory unstable angina (UA), that is, UA that does not respond to conventional therapy, it is limited by complications related to thrombosis and acute coronary occlusion. The complication rate is higher in patients with UA than in those whose condition is stable. Preprocedural use of abciximab, a monoclonal platelet glycoprotein IIb/IIIa receptor blocker, has been used effectively in patients with UA, but its acceptance may be limited by safety concerns and economic constraints. The current trial investigated a protocol for abciximab pretreatment in patients with UA awaiting transfer from referring hospitals to a site of intervention (the 'drip and ship' protocol).


This observational study was conducted to evaluate whether a prophylactic, preprocedural regimen of abciximab can be safely and effectively administered to UA patients in referring hospitals while awaiting coronary angioplasty at the interventional clinic.


From April 1996 to December 1998, 168 consecutive patients with refractory UA (Braunwald class II or III) received abciximab prospectively at the referring clinic before undergoing PTCA or stent implantation at the interventional clinic. The following cost-conscious protocol was used: a 0.25 mg/kg bolus of abciximab followed by 10 micro g/min intravenously for 16 hours, in addition to intravenous nitrates, heparin and aspirin therapy. Patients were then transferred to a facility with PTCA capability via high-speed ambulance transport. No specific alterations of routine-transfer protocol were needed. Platelet aggregation studies were conducted during abciximab infusion. All interventions were performed while abciximab was given. Procedural and clinical success and long-term outcomes also were assessed.


The primary angiographic success rate (patients with post-PTCA diameter stenosis < 50%) was 98%, and the in-hospital clinical success rate (angiographic success without major complications) was 98%. No major bleeding complications occurred during the abciximab pretreatment period. Platelet aggregation findings in the study patients showed a stable inhibition of >80% at the time of angioplasty. At 30-day follow-up, all patients were alive and 91% were free of major adverse events. Outcomes of balloon angioplasty and stenting were equally favorable, indicating no device-specific effect. Event-free survival at six months was 89% with a target vessel revascularization rate of 10%.


Abciximab was administered safely and effectively to angioplasty patients with refractory UA awaiting transfer from a noninterventional setting to the site of angioplasty. These results extend the current knowledge base that has been established in randomized trials performed in interventional centers. The study protocol potentially could make abciximab therapy more feasible economically, and therefore more widely available to patients who are most likely to benefit from prophylactic administration.

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