Author + information
- Received December 16, 1997
- Revision received June 16, 1998
- Accepted August 20, 1998
- Published online December 1, 1998.
- Ezio Bramucci, MD∗,
- Luigi Angoli, MD∗,
- Piera Angelica Merlini, MD†,
- Paolo Barberis, MD∗,
- Maria Luisa Laudisa, MD∗,
- Elisabetta Colombi, MD∗,
- Arnaldo Poli, MD∗,
- Jaceck Kubica, MD∗ and
- Diego Ardissino, MD∗,* ()
- ↵*Address for correspondence: Dr. Diego Ardissino, Division of Cardiology, IRCCS, Policlinico San Matteo, Piazza Golgi 1, 27100 Pavia, Italy
Objectives. This prospective case-control study evaluated the acute and long-term results of stent implantation preceded by debulking of the plaque by means of directional coronary atherectomy.
Background. In comparison with balloon angioplasty, intracoronary stenting produces a larger luminal diameter, maintains artery patency and reduces the incidence of restenosis. Optimal stent deployment is a pivotal factor for achieving the best results, but the bulk of the atherosclerotic plaque opposes stent expansion and may limit the success of the procedure. Debulking of the plaque may provide a better milieu for optimal stent deployment.
Methods. Directional coronary atherectomy followed by a single Palmaz-Schatz stent implantation was attempted in 100 patients. The successes, complications and angiographic results of the combined procedure were evaluated both acutely and during follow-up. Matched patients undergoing successful Palmaz-Schatz stent implantation alone during the same period served as controls.
Results. Atherectomy followed by stent implantation was performed in 94 patients with 98 lesions; periprocedural complications were observed in four cases. The stenosis diameter decreased from 76 ± 9% at baseline to 30 ± 13% after atherectomy (p < 0.0001), and 5 ± 9% after stent implantation (p < 0.0001); it increased to 27 ± 15% at 6-month angiography (p < 0.0001). During the 14 ± 10 months of follow-up, none of the patients died or experienced myocardial infarction, but three patients underwent target lesion revascularization. The patients undergoing stent implantation alone achieved smaller acute gains, tended to have a higher late lumen loss, had a higher restenosis rate (30.5% vs. 6.8%, p < 0.0001) and showed a greater incidence of clinical events during follow-up (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions. Debulking atherosclerotic lesions by means of directional coronary atherectomy before stent implantation is a safe procedure with a high success rate and a low incidence of restenosis at follow-up.
Elective stent implantation after percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, which seals the intimal flaps and decreases the elastic recoil of the vessel, is associated with a substantial and immediate angiographic gain, and less chance of restenosis than balloon angioplasty (1,2). Optimal stent deployment using a high inflation pressure or guidance by intravascular ultrasonography is now emerging as a pivotal factor for achieving the best results with the lowest level of risk (3).
The bulk of the atherosclerotic plaque is displaced but not removed by balloon angioplasty, and may therefore limit optimal stent expansion and the success of the procedure. By removing the atherosclerotic plaque, directional coronary atherectomy could provide the best anatomical conditions for successful stent implantation. This prospective study was undertaken to evaluate the acute and long-term results of combining directional coronary atherectomy and stent implantation via a matched comparison with stent implantation alone.
Angina pectoris patients with objective evidence of myocardial ischemia and a new focal atherosclerotic lesion in a native coronary artery suitable for both atherectomy and stent implantation were considered eligible to enter the study. The specific angiographic criteria for enrollment included ≥75% and <100% stenosis of a proximal nontortuous coronary artery, with a reference diameter of >2.5 mm and a lesion length ≤15 mm.
Patients were excluded if they had suffered acute myocardial infarction in the territory supplied by the target vessel, had an allergy or contraindication to aspirin or ticlopidine, or had a history of bleeding diathesis, coagulopathy or stroke. The angiographic criteria for exclusion were the presence of diffuse disease, left main coronary artery disease, or peripheral vascular disease precluding atherectomy sheath insertion.
The patients enrolled in the study underwent directional coronary atherectomy followed by a single Palmaz-Schatz stent implantation; they received standardized medical therapy and were seen in the outpatient clinic after 1, 3, and 6 months for an interview, physical examination and electrocardiogram (ECG). Follow-up coronary angiography was prospectively scheduled at 6 months unless the recurrence of angina dictated its use earlier; in the latter case, if no definite restenosis was present, an attempt was made to obtain a further angiogram at 6 months. When more than one angiogram was available, the one that provided the longest angiographic follow-up was used in the analysis.
The controls were patients with the same inclusion/exclusion characteristics who underwent successful elective single Palmaz-Schatz stent implantation during the same period. The lesions were individually matched by vessel, lesion location, preprocedural reference diameter and preprocedural minimal lumen diameter. The coronary artery tree was subdivided into 15 segments according to the American Heart Association guidelines (4), and the lesions were matched within each segment. The observed differences in the reference and minimal lumen diameters between two pair lesions had to be within the range of reproducibility of the quantitative analysis system for lesion measurement (5,6). Anginal status was also taken into account as an additional clinical characteristic in order to refine the matching process, which was performed by an independent physician. The controls were enrolled at the time of the interventional procedure and then prospectively followed-up in exactly the same manner—that is, they were seen in the outpatient clinic after 1, 3, and 6 months for an interview, physical examination and ECG. Follow-up coronary angiography was prospectively scheduled at 6 months unless the recurrence of angina dictated its use earlier.
The study was approved by the hospital’s Institutional Review Board, and all of the patients gave their written informed consent.
Directional coronary atherectomy followed by stent implantation
Directional coronary atherectomy and stent implantation were performed according to standard clinical practice. Briefly, after a 300-cm-long wire was positioned through the lesion, the atherectomy device was directed over the guide wire and positioned across the stenosis. The support balloon was then inflated up to 1 atm. The cutter was retracted and the balloon inflation pressure increased to a maximum of 3 atm. The driving motor was activated and the rotating cutter slowly advanced to cut and collect the protruding atherosclerotic lesion in the collecting chamber located at the tip of the catheter. After each pass, the balloon was deflated and either removed or repositioned.
To obtain the maximum debulking of the lesion, the operator made the initial cuts toward the eccentricity; subsequent cuts were then performed in other plaque-bearing quadrants, with the inflation pressure being increased to a maximum of 4 atm if needed so as to remove tissue without causing vessel perforation. After four cuts, the angiographic result was observed, the atherocath removed, the specimen collected and, in the case of suboptimal results, the atherocath was reintroduced to optimize the debulking. An average of 4.7 ± 1.6 atherectomy cuts per lesion were performed and a median of 6.2 mg (range 0.1 to 14.1 mg) of atherosclerotic plaque were extracted.
Following atherectomy, the 15-mm Palmaz-Schatz stent was deployed at the site of the removed atherosclerotic lesion by inflating a balloon over which the collapsed stent was inserted (bare stent), or by dilating a balloon catheter with a premounted stent protected by an outer sheath during the passage to the target site (delivery system). The balloon was inflated under high pressure (minimum 12 atm) to ensure full stent expansion. Although an optimal angiographic result was sought for each treated lesion, and the goal was a residual stenosis of less than 20%, the procedure was considered angiographically successful if the residual stenosis was <50%.
Stent implantation in controls
Balloon angioplasty and stent implantation were performed according to standard clinical practice: after the lesion was predilated, the 15-mm Palmaz-Schatz stent was deployed in the same way as that described above. After stent implantation, the stented area was often further dilated by means of standard balloon angioplasty; once again, a residual stenosis of less than 20% was sought for each treated lesion, although a residual stenosis of <50% was considered angiographically successful.
Both groups of patients received aspirin (160 to 325 mg q.d.), and treatment with calcium channel antagonists was initiated at least 24 h before the procedure. During the procedure, patients received an initial bolus injection of 10,000 IU of heparin supplemented as needed in order to maintain an activated clotting time of more than 300 s. Ticlopidine (250 mg b.i.d.) was started at the end of the procedure; the heparin infusion was continued, maintaining an activated partial thromboplastin time of between 60 to 85 s until 2 to 6 h before sheath removal the following morning. The patients continued receiving calcium channel blockers, aspirin and ticlopidine for 1 month, and then only calcium channel blockers and aspirin until the 6-month follow-up coronary angiography.
After the follow-up angiography, both patients and controls were contacted by the investigators every 6 months to assess their clinical status.
The clinical end points were death, nonfatal myocardial infarction or the need for repeat revascularization of the target lesion. Death was defined to include all deaths. Myocardial infarction was defined as the occurrence of prolonged chest pain with a new abnormal Q-wave, or persistent ST- or T-wave changes, with an increase in creatine kinase (CK) level or MB fraction (which were serially measured for 24 h after the procedure) of more than three times the upper limit of normal. Repeat revascularization of the target lesion was defined as angioplasty or bypass surgery performed because of restenosis in association with angina, objective evidence of myocardial ischemia or both.
The degree of stenosis was assessed by means of quantitative coronary angiography on coronary angiograms obtained before and immediately after atherectomy, immediately after stent implantation, and at the 6-month follow-up examination; in the controls, the angiograms were obtained before and immediately after angioplasty, immediately after stent implantation, and at the 6-month examinations. Each vessel was filmed in multiple projections after the administration of 200 μg of intracoronary nitroglycerin to standardize the quantitative coronary angiography. Once the projection that best showed the stenosis in its tightest view was identified, this was used for all of the angiograms. Four end-diastolic frames (one from each angiogram) were then selected and loaded onto a digital angiographic computer system. All of the images were analyzed using an automatic quantitative coronary arteriography program, which has been described in detail elsewhere (5). The analysis was carried out by two experienced cardiologists who were blinded as to the patient’s identity, outcome and the sequence of the film. Each value represents the average of the two estimates.
Minimal lesion diameter (MLD) and the nearest normal reference diameter (ND) were measured in millimeters (mm) using the catheter as a scaling factor. The percent stenosis was calculated as 100 (1-MLD/ND). The acute gain was defined as the difference between the MLD after stent implantation and at baseline. Restenosis was measured as both a continuous and dichotomous variable: as a continuous measure, it was calculated as the difference between the MLD immediately after stent implantation and at 6 months (late loss); the loss index, defined as late loss divided by acute gain, was also calculated (7). As a binary variable, it was defined as a postprocedural stenosis of less than 50% increasing to more than 50% at follow-up angiography. The intra- and interobserver variability of the quantitative assessments of minimal lumen diameter have been previously reported (5,6).
The comparisons were made by means of the chi-square test for categorical data and the unpaired t-test for continuous variables. Differences within the group undergoing directional coronary atherectomy followed by stent implantation were assessed by means of the one-way repeated measure analysis of variance, with Scheffe’s procedures for multiple comparisons. Differences were considered statistically significant when the two-tailed p value was less than 0.05.
The study population consisted of 100 patients, 12% of all of the patients undergoing nonsurgical revascularization at the Catheterization Laboratory of the Division of Cardiology, IRCCS, Policlinico San Matteo, Pavia, Italy, during the study period. The combined procedure of atherectomy followed by stent implantation was successfully performed in 90 patients and 94 lesions. The atherectomy procedure was attempted but not performed in five patients because it was not possible to insert the atherectomy sheath (two patients, one of whom had vascular perforation of the iliac artery followed by surgical repair), engage the left main ostium with the guiding catheter (two patients), or pass through the lesion with the atherocath (one patient). In one patient, the atherectomy was successfully performed, but not followed by stent implantation because the vessel diameter turned out to be <2.5 mm. In the remaining four patients, all of whom underwent the combined procedure, acute complications occurred: two experienced coronary dissection during stent implantation in the proximal part of the left anterior descending artery near to the left main coronary artery and were referred for coronary bypass grafting (one on an emergency basis and one electively); one showed a no-reflow phenomenon after atherectomy that persisted after stent implantation, and also developed an acute non-Q-wave myocardial infarction; the fourth patient had side-branch occlusion during stent implantation and developed non-Q-wave myocardial infarction. The procedure was considered successful in five patients who developed an increase in CK levels <3 times the upper limit of normal without clinical or angiographic complications.
The clinical and angiographic characteristics of the patients who underwent successful atherectomy followed by stent implantation are shown in Table 1. The procedural characteristics, and the acute and long-term angiographic results of the combined procedure, are shown in Table 2. Immediately after atherectomy, there was an increase in MLD (p < 0.0001), and a further significant increase was observed after stent implantation (p < 0.0001). Follow-up coronary angiography, which was completed in 84 patients (93%), showed a decrease in MLD in comparison with after-stent implantation (p < 0.0001). There was a concomitant reduction in the percent stenosis diameter after atherectomy (p < 0.0001) with a further significant reduction after stent implantation (p < 0.0001). At follow-up, there was an increase in percent stenosis diameter (p < 0.0001) and restenosis, defined as a binary variable, was observed in 6 of the 87 lesions (6.8%).
During the follow-up, which lasted 14 ± 10 months (Table 3), the patient who had undergone emergency bypass surgery owing to left main coronary dissection died. None of the patients experienced myocardial infarction. Six patients experienced a recurrence of angina and underwent angiography before the scheduled 6 months: three had a restenosis and underwent repeat target lesion revascularization; the other three showed no angiographic evidence of restenosis, but showed progression of atherosclerotic disease in other coronary segments.
Atherectomy followed by stent implantation versus stent implantation alone
There were no significant differences between the cases and matched controls with regard to the clinical and angiographic characteristics (Table 1). The fluoroscopy time (p = 0.018) and the amount of radiographic contrast media used (p = 0.003) were greater in the cases than in the controls, whereas both the number of balloon inflations (p = 0.013) and the inflation pressures (p = 0.02) used during stent implantation were higher in the stent-alone group (Table 2). Directional coronary atherectomy led to a significantly larger MLD (p = 0.049) and a lower percent stenosis diameter (p = 0.007) than did balloon angioplasty.
Following stent implantation, the differences in MLD (p = 0.029) and percent stenosis diameter (p = 0.0002) were even more pronounced, the acute gain being greater in the group treated with atherectomy followed by stent implantation (p = 0.031). Follow-up coronary angiography, which was completed in 85 patients (90%), showed that the minimal lesion diameter was greater (p = 0.009) and the percent stenosis diameter smaller (p = 0.0017) in the patients treated with the combination. The loss index was significantly lower (p = 0.002) in the patients treated with atherectomy plus stent, who also showed a trend toward a less late lumen loss. Restenosis, defined as a binary variable, was observed in 26 lesions (30.5%) in the stent-alone group, significantly more than in the combination group (p < 0.0001).
During the follow-up of the controls, which lasted a mean of 14 ± 12 months (Table 3), one patient died, and three experienced a myocardial infarction (one due to subacute thrombosis 8 days after the procedure). Twenty-two patients experienced the recurrence of anginal symptoms, 12 of whom underwent angiography before the scheduled 6 months (nine had a restenosis and underwent repeat target lesion revascularization, and three patients with no angiographic evidence of restenosis showed the progression of atherosclerotic disease in other coronary segments). Six patients underwent repeat target lesion revascularization after the 6-month follow-up coronary angiography. The incidence of clinical events during follow-up was higher in the stent-alone group (p < 0.0001).
Optimal stent expansion in coronary arteries is obtained by overcoming the resistance opposed by the vessel wall and the bulk of the atherosclerotic plaque. The use of high inflation pressures has proved to be helpful in overcoming these resistances, thus facilitating optimal stent expansion (3). Another possible means of further optimizing stent expansion may be to reduce atherosclerotic plaque resistance by removing the plaque itself. The present study was designed to test whether stent implantation using a high inflation pressure, preceded by the debulking of the atherosclerotic wall by means of directional coronary atherectomy, is a safe procedure and associated with better angiographic results.
Acute and long-term results of directional coronary atherectomy followed by stent implantation
Our data show that directional coronary atherectomy followed by stent implantation leads to further improvement in the acute angiographic results obtained by atherectomy alone. Preliminary data suggest that newer mechanical devices may reduce the incidence of restenosis by providing better acute results than those that can be achieved by means of balloon angioplasty. Larger acute lumens appear to accommodate the expected subsequent renarrowing better, and so the final treated coronary channel is larger and less likely to obstruct flow (8). Directional coronary atherectomy aimed at obtaining the best achievable results by using associated balloon angioplasty has been shown to lead to better long-term results than balloon angioplasty alone (9,10).
The use of a stent after atherectomy proposed in the present study is in keeping with the idea of obtaining the best achievable acute results, and it has the advantages of reducing the elastic recoil of the lesion, preventing stenosis remodeling and take-up flaps, exposing less surface to proliferative stimuli, and supporting some of the wall stress loading that would otherwise enhance muscle cell growth. All of these advantages may explain the very low incidence of restenosis and symptom recurrence in our study: figures of 6.8% of restenosis and 3% of target lesion revascularization are the lowest reported so far even with a moderate debulking, such as the one performed in the present study (average of 4.7 cuts with a median of 6.2 mg of tissue extracted).
However, it should be noted that the combined procedures could be successfully performed in only 90 of the 100 patients in whom it was attempted and that five of these 90 patients developed an increase in CK level <3 times the upper limit of normal. Given the technical difficulties together with the relatively high incidence of acute complications with the combined procedures, large randomized trials aimed at demonstrating an improved clinical outcome are needed before any recommendation can be made.
Matched comparison with stent implantation
Although the present study was not randomized, and therefore the results of the group comparisons must be taken cautiously, it is nevertheless interesting to note that the combination of atherectomy plus stent implantation led to better angiographic and clinical results than did stent implantation alone. The incidence of restenosis in the stent-alone group was similar to that observed in the STRESS trial (2)but higher than expected in the era of optimal stent expansion. This may be related to the high prevalence of unstable clinical conditions with complex lesions involving predominantly proximal left anterior descending coronary artery.
Not only did the combination achieve a larger immediate gain (which intuitively translates into greater net angiographic results after 6 months), it also had a significantly lower loss index during follow-up. The reason why atherectomy followed by stent implantation leads to a loss index that is lower than either atherectomy (11,12)or stent implantation alone (1,2,13)remains speculative. However, the combination of the two favorable effects of a larger acute gain and a lower late lumen loss may explain the exceptionally low incidence of restenosis and the better clinical outcome observed in the group treated with atherectomy followed by stent implantation.
Randomized trials that avoid selection bias are needed to demonstrate whether the promising results obtained in this pilot study are better than either optimal atherectomy or optimal stent implantation alone. Future studies should particularly address the issue of the net clinical benefit of combining directional coronary atherectomy and stent implantation. The financial aspect of combining the procedures should also be considered: the association of atherectomy plus stent implantation is certainly more expensive than either of the two techniques alone, but if the better results obtained with the combined treatment lead to fewer events and less need for repeated target lesion revascularization and rehospitalization, it may be cost-effective.
Another possible approach that could exploit the beneficial effects and contain the costs of the debulking strategy prior to stent implantation may be to limit its use to those conditions in which stent implantation alone is likely to fail. The identification of the clinical or angiographic characteristics that would benefit from the combination approach is therefore crucial and needs to be addressed by future investigations.
- Received December 16, 1997.
- Revision received June 16, 1998.
- Accepted August 20, 1998.
- American College of Cardiology
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