Education And Debate

Recent Advances: Cardiology - I: Treatment of myocardial infarction, unstable angina, and angina pectoris

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 19 November 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:1343
  1. J McMurray,
  2. A Rankin
  1. Department of Cardiology, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh EH4 2XU University Department of Medical Cardiology, Royal Infirmary, Glasgow G31 2ER
  1. Correspondence to: Dr McMurray.

    In the past 12 months there have been many advances in our understanding of how to treat heart disease. In the first part of this two part review we summarise the most important of these advances in the treatment of myocardial infarction, unstable angina, and angina pectoris. A glossary of study abbreviations is given in the appendix.

    Myocardial infarction and thrombolysis Early thrombolysis

    Two recent large trials, EMIP and the MITI project, have compared thrombolysis started before admission to hospital with that started in hospital, which adds to the findings of GREAT (table I).*RF 1-3* The results of EMIP and the MITI project were much less encouraging than those of GREAT, showing only a marginal benefit during short term follow up for prehospital treatment over hospital treatment (table I). This difference between GREAT and the two recent trials probably reflects the much shorter delay in starting thrombolysis in hospital in EMIP and the MITI project. This, in part, reflected the effect of the trials on “usual practice.” In EMIP the median time from arrival in hospital to injection was only 15 minutes compared with over 80 minutes in recent British and American surveys.4 In support of this, patients in the MITI project who were treated within 70 minutes of the onset of symptoms had a mortality in hospital of only 1.2% compared with 8.7% in those who were not treated within 70 minutes (P=0.04). The clear message of these studies is the earlier treatment is given the better: when matters more than where.

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    Trials of prehospital thrombolysis

    Initiating thrombolysis just 30-60 minutes earlier, the sort of time saving that can be achieved by regular audit and the introduction of fast track systems, will typically save about 15 extra lives for each 1000 patients treated (see discussion of GUSTO study below).4 An even greater benefit …

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