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Clinical Review ABC of interventional cardiology

New developments in percutaneous coronary intervention

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 17 July 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:150
  1. Julian Gunn, senior lecturer and honorary consultant cardiologista,
  2. David Crossman, professor of clinical cardiologya,
  3. Ever D Grech, consultant cardiologist and assistant professorb,
  4. David Cumberland, consultant cardiovascular interventionistc
  1. athe Cardiovascular Research Group, Clinical Sciences Centre, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.
  2. bthe Health Sciences Centre and St Boniface Hospital, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg.
  3. cAmpang Puteri Specialist Hospital, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


    Percutaneous coronary intervention has become a more common procedure than coronary artery bypass surgery in many countries, and the number of procedures continues to rise. In one day an interventionist may treat four to six patients with complex, multivessel disease or acute coronary syndromes. Various balloons, stents, and other devices are delivered by means of a 2 mm diameter catheter introduced via a peripheral artery. The success rate is over 95%, and the risk of serious complications is low. After a few hours patients can be mobilised, and they are usually discharged the same or the next day. Even the spectre of restenosis is now fading.

    Refinements of existing techniques

    The present success of percutaneous procedures is largely because of refinement of our “basic tools” (intracoronary guidewires and low profile balloons), which have greatly contributed to the safety and effectiveness of procedures. However, the greatest technological advance has been in the development of stents. These are usually cut by laser from stainless steel tubes into a variety of designs, each with different radial strength and flexibility. They are chemically etched or electropolished to a fine finish and sometimes coated.

    Digital angiography is a great advance over cine-based systems, and relatively benign contrast media have replaced the toxic media used in early angioplasty. Although magnetic resonance and computed tomographic imaging may become useful in the non-invasive diagnosis of coronary artery disease, angiography will remain indispensable to guide percutaneous interventions for the foreseeable future.

    View this table:

    Interventional devices and their uses

    New device technology

    Pre-eminent among new devices is the drug eluting (coated) stent, which acts as a drug delivery device to reduce restenosis. The first of these was the sirolimus coated Cypher stent. Sirolimus is one of several agents that have powerful antimitotic effects and inhibit new tissue growth inside the artery and stent. In a randomised controlled trial (RAVEL) …

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