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What is the therapeutic approach for failed primary PCI ?

Posted Jan 05 2010 9:18am

STEMI is the  “Numero Uno” of  cardiovascular emergency .The  treatment has evolved over decades,  right from   the primitive  arm chair approach to the  air dropping of  patients  over the cath  lab  roofs  for primary PCI ! We realise by now ,both are extreme forms of treatment and  may  have unique  hazards. What we forget is the , the natural history of STEMI is too  much dependent on the degree of initial damage to the myocardium , and it is very difficult to alter this,  however good is the therapeutic strategy .  We are yet to find an answer regarding the mechanism of primary VF and modes of preventing it. We also have no answer for  ,  why  some  develop myocardial damage  very fast and  the  cardiogenic shock occur in an  accelerated fashion. (Fate ?)

Many would consider  ” non availability of   infrastructure and expertise “  is the major issue  for  primary PCI . But the real problem is much more than that .When an  illusion of knowledge is constantly bombarded , it is natural for human beings to believe whatever is told or printed in books and journals. We cardiologists are made to believe thrombolysis is a far . . .  far  inferior treatment than primary PCI in STEMI .  It is not so in any stretch of imagination.

The fact that , there is no entity called ” Failed primary PCI ” in cardiology literature  , would  suggest how biased we are against thrombolysis. Every cardiology  resident will  recognise  thrombolysis fails  at least 40% of time .Yes , it is  a  fact  , but the irony is , this   is  often  used   to convey a surrogate  meaning , that  is , primary PCI is  near 100% successful !

How  do you assess success of primary PCI ?

Unlike elective PCI where the criteria is too liberal, we can not afford to adopt the same in an emergency PCI. Here the aim of the procedure is entirely different (Salvaging dying myocardium vs pain relief  ).

It’s still a  mystery ,  while  thrombolysis is vigorously assessed  for it’s  effectiveness   primary  PCI is rarely  subjected to the same scrutiny  . A check angiogram  after the procedure ,  is all that is done . . . and every one  leaves the cath lab happily. The  effect of primary PCI on ST segment ECG resolution must be documented immediately after PCI. While ,  It is mandatory to take ECG after 60 -90 mts after thrombolysis , this sort of protocol is rarely  followed after PCI.

If the ST segment  fails to retract  > 50% immediately  following PCI  the procedure  should be  deemed to have failed . Further , unlike thrombolysis  in primary PCI , the ST segment has to regress within 10  mts , as IRA patency occur instantly .If we apply this criteria , the success rate of primary PCI would be far less than what we believe*

* Not withstanding the official lesion , hardware, related failure. If we encounter a severe triple vessel disease , with a bifurcation lesion and thrombus it’s  a tough exercise as we are racing against time .

Primary PCI  Camouflaging  in semantics

  • A successful but  delayed   primary PCI  is actually a failed PCI
  • A  complicated  primary PCI  often  reach the equivalence  of   failed PCI
  • No  reflow is almost synonymous with failed primary PCI as successful correction of no reflow occur in minority.
  • Not all TIMI 3 flow is converted into myocardial flow.
  • Renal dysfunction following excess dye has a  high  morbidity
  • If patient  develops significant  LV dysfunction following primary PCI it is a failed PCI.
  • Finally if the cost of primary PCI exceeds the insurance limit it is  economically a  failed primary PCI as the patient  has to spend double or triple  the amount of sum insured .This stress has resulted in many recurrent coronary events .

Why is it important to recognise failed primary PCI ?

For failed thrombolysis we have a strategy . Unfortunately , even in this modern era  we have  no useful  strategy for failed primary PCI . Handing over a patient to a surgeon in a such a situation is considered by many as a great rescue strategy but in real world it does no good in most of the patient.

Doing an emergency CABG in a sinking patient with a battered coronary artery is no easy job /Many times it only rescues the cardiologists from the embarrassing situation of facing the relatives who ask for explanation.

So , what can be done at best , in failed primary PCI ?

  • CABG can be an option but still questionable !
  • Most times  there is  no other option except to fall back on the medical management.
  • Intensive anticoagulation and one need to consider even a rescue thrombolytic treatment !
  • Some times we can only prey !  Failed primary PCI for a patient in cardiogenic shock with IABP support is near death sentence !

Final message

  • Remember ,  success of primary PCI   is  not in  wheeling out a  patient  alive out of cath lab   , with a TIMI 3 flow  in the IRA ,  but in  garnering significant   myocardial salvage   which  should have an impact on   intermediate and long term  outcome .
  • Do not ever think primary PCI is a sacred treatment modality in STEMI  and the job of the cardiologists ends there. It is vested with  lots of important complications – defined, undefined , recognised,  unrecognised, reported, and unreported ,  concealed ,denied, poorly understood, etc etc.
  • There are  equally  effective, less dangerous treatment modality available .
  • Decision  to do primary PCI  must not be based   only on the  “affordability and  availability”  of  cath lab and expertise !
  • In  clinical cardiology practice,  no  procedure  is  great   & nothing is inferior either  !  Every thing has to be used judiciously , appropriately  and  intelligently (Intelligence is synonymous with common sense many times!)

Coming soon

Surgeon’s real time experience of operating  on a failed primary PCI. To our surprise , only a handful of surgeons  have this experience

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