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Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2010 Nov;12(6):423-31. doi: 10.1007/s11883-010-0135-2.

Strategies in stable ischemic heart disease: lessons from the COURAGE and BARI-2D trials.

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  • 1Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University at Buffalo and Buffalo General Hospital, University at Buffalo School of Medicine, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, USA.


There is a continuing debate regarding the most effective strategy for treating stable ischemic heart disease (SIHD). Conflicting data have emerged from several small, randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses regarding the benefits of early revascularization in SIHD. Two recent multicenter, randomized trials, the Clinical Outcomes Utilizing Revascularization and Aggressive Drug Evaluation (COURAGE) trial and the Bypass Angioplasty Revascularization Investigation in Type 2 Diabetes (BARI-2D) trial, compared two management strategies in SIHD-an initial conservative approach with optimal medical therapy (OMT) versus a strategy of early revascularization in combination with OMT. COURAGE randomized SIHD patients who were candidates for percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to either a strategy of early PCI in combination with OMT or OMT alone, whereas BARI-2D randomized diabetic patients with coronary artery disease to either early revascularization (PCI or coronary artery bypass surgery [CABG]) versus OMT. This review examines the principal findings of these trials, with discussion of their strengths, limitations, and applicability to the general population. The results support the hypothesis that in patients with SIHD, early revascularization with PCI in combination with OMT is not superior to OMT alone in reducing mortality and other major cardiovascular events. Subset analysis from BARI-2D did suggest that early CABG, although it did not reduce mortality, significantly reduced the rate of nonfatal myocardial infarction compared with an initial OMT approach. Based on these data, the majority of patients with SIHD should be managed initially with medical therapy, a strategy that is also the most cost effective. Revascularization can be considered for patients with severe or refractory symptoms despite a trial of medical therapy. For diabetic patients who have extensive coronary artery disease, early revascularization with CABG may be reasonable.

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