A new study carried out by researchers across more than 30 countries has shown that repairing all clogged arteries following a heart attack offers more benefits than the previous practice of singling out only the particular artery that led to such an attack.
Medical experts had known before now that opening the blocked artery that caused a heart attack with stents was helpful to patients. What was not exactly clear, however, was whether clearing other blocked arteries offered extra benefits.
The most doctors do about other clogged arteries that are not responsible for an attack is treating them with drugs.
This new study dubbed the COMPLETE trial shows that opening all blocked arteries can offer more benefits to heart attack victims.
“Given its large size, international scope and focus on patient-centered outcomes, the COMPLETE trial will change how doctors treat this condition and prevent many thousands of recurring heart attacks globally every year,” said lead study author Dr. Shamir R. Mehta, a senior scientist at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University.
The research is the product of collaboration between 130 hospitals located in 31 countries. It was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
More beneficial repair
The COMPLETE trial involved more than 4,000 patients – precisely, 4,041. This makes it the first large, international, randomized trial to show greater benefits from repairing all clogged arteries following a heart attack.
Researchers found that roughly 50 percent of heart attack victims had other clogged arteries apart from the one responsible for their attack.
When treating patients, doctors commonly focus only on the clogged artery that caused an attack. But findings from the COMPLETE trial suggest that repairing other blocked arteries leads to better outcomes.
This approach reduced the risk of patients dying from or having these attacks by 26 percent.
It was a clear indication that opening all clogged arteries with stents offers long-term benefit when it comes to preventing grave heart-related issues, according to Mehta.
The researchers in this international study observed that incidence of a second attack or heart-related death fell to 7.8 percent among patients who had other clogged arteries cleared as well over a median of three years. By comparison, the rate stood at 10.5 percent for those who only had the blocked artery that caused their heart attack cleared.
Mehta said the benefit was even more significant when other related events, such as awful chest pain are considered.
“The benefits emerged over the long term and were similar when the additional stent procedures were done anytime in the first 45 days after the heart attack,” Mehta explained.
The scientists said there was no “major downside” to the suggested approach. In terms of side effects, no difference was observed between the groups.
The study was led by the PHRI, with funding provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.