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Open Access Debate

Acute ischemic heart disease and interventional cardiology: a time for pause

Peter Bogaty1* and James M Brophy2

Author Affiliations

1 Quebec Heart Institute/Laval Hospital, Laval University, 2725 Chemin Ste-Foy, Quebec, G1V 4G5, Canada

2 McGill University Health Center, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

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BMC Medicine 2006, 4:25  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-4-25

Published: 11 October 2006



A major change has occurred in the last few years in the therapeutic approach to patients presenting with all forms of acute coronary syndromes. Whether or not these patients present initially to tertiary cardiac care centers, they are now routinely referred for early coronary angiography and increasingly undergo percutaneous revascularization. This practice is driven primarily by the angiographic image and technical feasibility. Concomitantly, there has been a decline in expectant or ischemia-guided medical management based on specific clinical presentation, response to initial treatment, and results of noninvasive stratification. This 'tertiarization' of acute coronary care has been fuelled by the increasing sophistication of the cardiac armamentarium, the peer-reviewed publication of clinical studies purporting to show the superiority of invasive cardiac interventions, and predominantly supporting (non-peer-reviewed) editorials, newsletters, and opinion pieces.


This review presents another perspective, based on a critical reexamination of the evidence. The topics addressed are: reperfusion treatment of ST-elevation myocardial infarction; the indications for invasive intervention following thrombolysis; the role of invasive management in non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction and unstable angina; and cost-effectiveness and real world considerations. A few cases encountered in recent practice in community and tertiary hospitals are presented for illustrative purposes The numerous and far-reaching scientific, economic, and philosophical implications that are a consequence of this marked change in clinical practice as well as healthcare, decisional and conflict of interest issues are explored.


The weight of evidence does not support the contemporary unfocused broad use of invasive interventional procedures across the spectrum of acute coronary clinical presentations. Excessive and unselective recourse to these procedures has deleterious implications for the organization of cardiac health care and undesirable economic, scientific and intellectual consequences. It is suggested that there is need for a new equilibrium based on more refined clinical risk stratification in the treatment of patients who present with acute coronary syndromes.