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1.  Balancing Potency of Platelet Inhibition with Bleeding Risk in the Early Treatment of Acute Coronary Syndrome 
To review available evidence and examine issues surrounding the use of advanced antiplatelet therapy in an effort to provide a practical guide for emergency physicians caring for patients with acute coronary syndromes (ACS).
Data Sources:
American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) 2007 guidelines for the management of patients with unstable angina (UA) and non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI), AHA/ACC 2007 focused update for the management of patients with STEMI, selected clinical articles identified through the PubMed database (1965-February 2008), and manual searches for relevant articles identified from those retrieved.
Study Selection:
English-language controlled studies and randomized clinical trials that assessed the efficacy and safety of antiplatelet therapy in treating patients with all ACS manifestations.
Data Extraction and Synthesis:
Clinical data, including treatment regimens and patient demographics and outcomes, were extracted and critically analyzed from the selected studies and clinical trials. Pertinent data from relevant patient registries were also evaluated to assess current clinical practice.
As platelet activation and aggregation are central to ACS pathology, antiplatelet agents are critical to early treatment. A widely accepted first-line treatment is aspirin, which acts to decrease platelet activation via inhibition of thromboxane A2 synthesis. Thienopyridines, which inhibit ADP-induced platelet activation, and glycoprotein (GP) receptor antagonists, which bind to platelet GP IIb/IIIa receptors and hinder their role in platelet aggregation and thrombus formation, provide complementary mechanisms of platelet inhibition and are often employed in combination with aspirin. While the higher levels of platelet inhibition that accompany combination therapy improve protection against ischemic and peri-procedural events, the risk of bleeding is also increased. Thus, the challenge in choosing appropriate therapy in the emergency department lies in balancing the need for potent platelet inhibition with the potential for increased risk of bleeding and future interventions the patient is likely to receive during the index hospitalization.
PMCID: PMC2729217  PMID: 19718378
2.  Evaluation of proper prescribing of cardiac medications at hospital discharge for patients with acute coronary syndromes (ACS) in two Lebanese hospitals 
SpringerPlus  2014;3:159.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the major leading cause of death worldwide. The national practice guidelines from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) promote the use of several medical therapies for secondary prevention for patients with CAD. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether ACS patients, admitted into two tertiary referral medical centers in Beirut, Lebanon, are discharged on optimal medical therapy based on the current AHA/ACC guidelines.
We reviewed the medical records of all patients with ACS who were admitted to the coronary care units (CCU) of two hospitals in Beirut, Lebanon between May and August 2012. Discharge prescriptions were reviewed and rating for the appropriateness of discharge cardiac medications was based on the AHA/ACC guidelines. We assessed whether patients were discharged on antiplatelet therapy, β-blockers, angiotensin converting enzymes inhibitors (ACEIs) or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), statins, and nitrates, unless contraindicated or not tolerated. In addition, we assessed whether patients and/or their caregivers were counseled about their disease(s) and discharge medications.
186 patients with a mean age of 63 ± 11.78 years, 70.4% of which were males, were admitted with ACS and were included in the study. Fifty three (28.5%) patients had ST elevation MI (STEMI), 64 (34.4%) had non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) and 69 (37.1%) had unstable angina (USA). Sixty two patients (33.3%) were treated with medical therapy and 124 patients (66.7%) underwent percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).
Among eligible patients, 98.9% were discharged on aspirin, 89.1% on dual antiplatelet therapy (aspirin + thienopyridine or ticagrelor), 90.5% on a β-blocker, 81.9% on an ACEI or ARB, 89.8% on a statin, and 19.4% on nitroglycerin. Overall, 62.9% of the patients received the optimal cardiovascular drug therapy (the combination of dual antiplatelet therapy, a β-blocker, an ACEIs or an ARB, and a statin), 55.1% were counseled on their disease state(s) and drug therapy, and 92.2% and 55.9% were counseled on smoking cessation and life style changes, respectively.
In patients admitted with ACS, discharge cardiac medications are prescribed at suboptimal rates. Education of healthcare providers and implementation of ACS discharge protocols may help improve compliance with ACC/AHA guidelines. In addition, clinicians should be encouraged to provide adequate patient counseling.
PMCID: PMC4000588  PMID: 24790814
ACS; Cardiac medications; Secondary prevention; Coronary artery disease; CAD
3.  Antiplatelet therapy in populations at high risk of atherothrombosis. 
Atherothrombosis is the most common cause of an acute ischemic event. Antiplatelet agents form the cornerstone of atherothrombosis prevention. The purpose of this article is to review the use of antiplatelet agents in patients that are at particularly high risk of atherothrombotic events. To undertake this review, we searched the literature to identify key studies on the use of antiplatelet agents in this group of patients. Antiplatelet agents, such as aspirin and clopidogrel, play a fundamental role in the treatment and management of secondary thrombotic events. The routine use of aspirin is recommended, as it has been shown to reduce the risk of thrombotic events by approximately 25%. Additional benefit has been demonstrated with clopidogrel, both as a monotherapy and in combination with aspirin. In the CAPRIE trial, 19,185 patients with atherosclerotic vascular disease were randomized to receive clopidogrel (75 mg/day) or aspirin (325 mg/day) for a mean duration of follow-up of 1.91 years. Clopidogrel provided an additional 8.7% relative risk reduction in the primary composite endpoint of ischemic stroke, myocardial infraction or vascular death compared with aspirin. In the CURE trial, the addition of clopidogrel to background aspirin was associated with a 20% relative risk reduction in a composite of death from cardiovascular causes, nonfatal myocardial infarction or stroke compared with aspirin alone. In patients undergoing PCI as part of the PCI-CURE substudy, clopidogrel was associated with a 30% relative reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular events in the first 30 days after intervention compared with aspirin. The benefits of antiplatelet therapy continue to be investigated. Whether dual antiplatelet therapy is superior to aspirin monotherapy for high-risk primary prevention is unknown. The ongoing CHARISMA trial aims to determine the relative efficacies of aspirin monotherapy and aspirin/clopidogrel combination therapy in a broad range of high-risk patient populations. In addition, the REACH registry, a worldwide survey of symptomatic and high-risk patients, has been set up to provide vital epidemiological information regarding the risks of atherothrombosis in order to contribute to the development of better preventive strategies and management regimens for at-risk patients.
PMCID: PMC2569272  PMID: 16749646
4.  Platelet Inhibitors in Non-ST-Segment Elevation Acute Coronary Syndromes and Percutaneous Coronary Intervention: Glycoprotein IIb/IIIa Inhibitors, Clopidogrel, or Both? 
The role of glycoprotein (Gp) IIb/IIIa receptor antagonists remains controversial and these agents are infrequently utilized during non-ST-segment elevation acute coronary syndromes (NSTE-ACS) despite American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology guidelines. Despite recommendations, the NRMI-4 (National Registry of Myocardial Infarction 4) and CRUSADE (Can rapid risk stratification of unstable angina patients suppress adverse outcomes with early implementation of the ACC/AHA guidelines?) registries observed that only 25%–32% of eligible patients received early Gp IIb/IIIa therapy, despite a 6.3% absolute mortality reduction in NRMI-4 and a 2% absolute mortality reduction in CRUSADE. A pooled analysis of Gp IIb/IIIa data from these registries suggest a major reduction in mortality (Odds Ratio = 0.43, 95% Confidence Index 0.25–0.74, p = 0.002) with early Gp IIb/IIIa therapy, yet clinicians fail to utilize this option in NSTE-ACS. The evidence-based approach to NSTE-ACS involves aspirin, clopidogrel, low-molecular weight heparins, or unfractionated heparin in concert with Gp IIb/IIIa receptor antagonists, however, newer percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)-based trials challenge current recommendations. Novel strategies emerging in NSTE-ACS include omitting Gp IIb/IIIa inhibitors altogether or using Gp IIb/IIIa inhibitors with higher doses of clopidogrel in selected patients. The ISAR-REACT (Intracoronary stenting and antithrombotic regimen–Rapid early action for coronary treatment) and ISAR-SWEET (ISAR–Is abciximab a superior way to eliminate elevated thrombotic risk in diabetics) trials question the value of abciximab when 600 mg of clopidogrel concurrently administered during PCI. The CLEAR-PLATELETS (Clopidogrel loading with eptifibatide to arrest the reactivity of platelets) and PEACE (Platelet activity extinction in non-Q-wave MI with ASA, clopidogrel, and eptifibatide) trials suggest more durable platelet inhibition when Gp IIb/IIIa inhibitors are used with higher doses clopidogrel. The ISAR-COOL (ISAR: Cooling off strategy) trial found no difference in ischemic outcomes when Gp IIb/IIIa inhibitors were excluded and ARMYDA-2 (Antiplatelet therapy for reduction of myocardial damage during angioplasty) suggested higher doses of clopidogrel are more appropriate during PCI when Gp IIb/IIIa inhibitors are not utilized. This constellation of new trials forces reconsideration of current recommendations in regards to patient risk stratification, choice of antithrombotic therapy, doses, and timing. These new data will impact emerging guidelines and updates are currently in progress.
PMCID: PMC1993977  PMID: 17319468
acute coronary syndromes; glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors; tirofiban; abciximab; eptifibatide; clopidogrel
5.  Collaborative meta-analysis of randomised trials of antiplatelet therapy for prevention of death, myocardial infarction, and stroke in high risk patients 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2002;324(7329):71-86.
To determine the effects of antiplatelet therapy among patients at high risk of occlusive vascular events.
Collaborative meta-analyses (systematic overviews).
Inclusion criteria
Randomised trials of an antiplatelet regimen versus control or of one antiplatelet regimen versus another in high risk patients (with acute or previous vascular disease or some other predisposing condition) from which results were available before September 1997. Trials had to use a method of randomisation that precluded prior knowledge of the next treatment to be allocated and comparisons had to be unconfounded—that is, have study groups that differed only in terms of antiplatelet regimen.
Studies reviewed
287 studies involving 135 000 patients in comparisons of antiplatelet therapy versus control and 77 000 in comparisons of different antiplatelet regimens.
Main outcome measure
“Serious vascular event”: non-fatal myocardial infarction, non-fatal stroke, or vascular death.
Overall, among these high risk patients, allocation to antiplatelet therapy reduced the combined outcome of any serious vascular event by about one quarter; non-fatal myocardial infarction was reduced by one third, non-fatal stroke by one quarter, and vascular mortality by one sixth (with no apparent adverse effect on other deaths). Absolute reductions in the risk of having a serious vascular event were 36 (SE 5) per 1000 treated for two years among patients with previous myocardial infarction; 38 (5) per 1000 patients treated for one month among patients with acute myocardial infarction; 36 (6) per 1000 treated for two years among those with previous stroke or transient ischaemic attack; 9 (3) per 1000 treated for three weeks among those with acute stroke; and 22 (3) per 1000 treated for two years among other high risk patients (with separately significant results for those with stable angina (P=0.0005), peripheral arterial disease (P=0.004), and atrial fibrillation (P=0.01)). In each of these high risk categories, the absolute benefits substantially outweighed the absolute risks of major extracranial bleeding. Aspirin was the most widely studied antiplatelet drug, with doses of 75-150 mg daily at least as effective as higher daily doses. The effects of doses lower than 75 mg daily were less certain. Clopidogrel reduced serious vascular events by 10% (4%) compared with aspirin, which was similar to the 12% (7%) reduction observed with its analogue ticlopidine. Addition of dipyridamole to aspirin produced no significant further reduction in vascular events compared with aspirin alone. Among patients at high risk of immediate coronary occlusion, short term addition of an intravenous glycoprotein IIb/IIIa antagonist to aspirin prevented a further 20 (4) vascular events per 1000 (P<0.0001) but caused 23 major (but rarely fatal) extracranial bleeds per 1000.
Aspirin (or another oral antiplatelet drug) is protective in most types of patient at increased risk of occlusive vascular events, including those with an acute myocardial infarction or ischaemic stroke, unstable or stable angina, previous myocardial infarction, stroke or cerebral ischaemia, peripheral arterial disease, or atrial fibrillation. Low dose aspirin (75-150 mg daily) is an effective antiplatelet regimen for long term use, but in acute settings an initial loading dose of at least 150 mg aspirin may be required. Adding a second antiplatelet drug to aspirin may produce additional benefits in some clinical circumstances, but more research into this strategy is needed.
What is already known on this topicAntiplatelet therapy is effective for short term treatment of patients with suspected acute myocardial infarction and unstable anginaLong term treatment is beneficial for patients who have had a myocardial infarction, stroke, or transient ischaemic attackDaily aspirin doses of 75-325 mg are effectiveWhat this study addsAntiplatelet therapy protects against vascular events among patients with stable angina, intermittent claudication, and (if oral anticoagulants are unsuitable) atrial fibrillationAntiplatelet therapy can be started promptly during acute presumed ischaemic stroke and continued long termDaily aspirin doses of 75-150 mg seem to be as effective as higher doses for long term treatments (and clopidrogel is an appropriate alternative for patients with a contraindication to aspirin)Short term addition of a glycoprotein IIb/IIIa antagonist to aspirin prevents vascular events in patients having percutaneous coronary intervention and those with unstable angina but causes increased bleeding
PMCID: PMC64503  PMID: 11786451
6.  Antiplatelet Drugs: Mechanisms and Risks of Bleeding Following Cardiac Operations 
Preoperative antiplatelet drug use is common in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). The impact of these drugs on bleeding and blood transfusion varies. We hypothesize that review of available evidence regarding drug-related bleeding risk, underlying mechanisms of platelet dysfunction, and variations in patient response to antiplatelet drugs will aid surgeons as they assess preoperative risk and attempt to limit perioperative bleeding. The purpose of this review is to (1) examine the role that antiplatelet drugs play in excessive postoperative blood transfusion, (2) identify possible mechanisms to explain patient response to antiplatelet drugs, and (3) formulate a strategy to limit excessive blood product usage in these patients. We reviewed available published evidence regarding bleeding risk in patients taking preoperative antiplatelet drugs. In addition, we summarized our previous research into mechanisms of antiplatelet drug-related platelet dysfunction. Aspirin users have a slight but significant increase in blood product usage after CABG (0.5 U of nonautologous blood per treated patient). Platelet adenosine diphosphate (ADP) receptor inhibitors are more potent antiplatelet drugs than aspirin but have a half-life similar to aspirin, around 5 to 10 days. The American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons guidelines recommend discontinuation, if possible, of ADP inhibitors 5 to 7 days before operation because of excessive bleeding risk, whereas aspirin should be continued during the entire perioperative period in most patients. Individual variability in response to aspirin and other antiplatelet drugs is common with both hyper- and hyporesponsiveness seen in 5 to 25% of patients. Use of preoperative antiplatelet drugs is a risk factor for increased perioperative bleeding and blood transfusion. Point-of-care tests can identify patients at high risk for perioperative bleeding and blood transfusion, although these tests have limitations. Available evidence suggests that multiple blood conservation techniques benefit high-risk patients taking antiplatelet drugs before operation. Guidelines for patients who take aspirin and/or thienopyridines before cardiac procedures include some or all of the following: (1) preoperative identification of high-risk patients using point-of-care testing; (2) withdrawal of aspirin or other antiplatelet drugs for a few days and delay of operation in patients at high risk for bleeding if clinical circumstances permit; (3) selective perioperative use of evidence-based blood conservation interventions (e.g., short-course erythropoietin, off-pump procedures, and use of intraoperative blood conservation techniques), especially in high-risk patients; and (4) platelet transfusions if clinical bleeding occurs.
PMCID: PMC3331630  PMID: 22532765
Aspirin; aspirin resistance; platelet glycoprotein receptors; postoperative bleeding; clopidogrel; thienopyridines; cardiac surgery; cardiopulmonary bypass
7.  Collaborative overview of randomised trials of antiplatelet therapy--I: Prevention of death, myocardial infarction, and stroke by prolonged antiplatelet therapy in various categories of patients. Antiplatelet Trialists' Collaboration. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1994;308(6921):81-106.
OBJECTIVE--To determine the effects of "prolonged" antiplatelet therapy (that is, given for one month or more) on "vascular events" (non-fatal myocardial infarctions, non-fatal strokes, or vascular deaths) in various categories of patients. DESIGN--Overviews of 145 randomised trials of "prolonged" antiplatelet therapy versus control and 29 randomised comparisons between such antiplatelet regimens. SETTING--Randomised trials that could have been available by March 1990. SUBJECTS--Trials of antiplatelet therapy versus control included about 70,000 "high risk" patients (that is, with some vascular disease or other condition implying an increased risk of occlusive vascular disease) and 30,000 "low risk" subjects from the general population. Direct comparisons of different antiplatelet regimens involved about 10,000 high risk patients. RESULTS--In each of four main high risk categories of patients antiplatelet therapy was definitely protective. The percentages of patients suffering a vascular event among those allocated antiplatelet therapy versus appropriately adjusted control percentages (and mean scheduled treatment durations and net absolute benefits) were: (a) among about 20,000 patients with acute myocardial infarction, 10% antiplatelet therapy v 14% control (one month benefit about 40 vascular events avoided per 1000 patients treated (2P < 0.00001)); (b) among about 20,000 patients with a past history of myocardial infarction, 13% antiplatelet therapy v 17% control (two year benefit about 40/1000 (2P < 0.00001)); (c) among about 10,000 patients with a past history of stroke or transient ischaemic attack, 18% antiplatelet therapy v 22% control (three year benefit about 40/1000 (2P < 0.00001)); (d) among about 20,000 patients with some other relevant medical history (unstable angina, stable angina, vascular surgery, angioplasty, atrial fibrillation, valvular disease, peripheral vascular disease, etc), 9% v 14% in 4000 patients with unstable angina (six month benefit about 50/1000 (2P < 0.00001)) and 6% v 8% in 16,000 other high risk patients (one year benefit about 20/1000 (2P < 0.00001)). Reductions in vascular events were about one quarter in each of these four main categories and were separately statistically significant in middle age and old age, in men and women, in hypertensive and normotensive patients, and in diabetic and nondiabetic patients. Taking all high risk patients together showed reductions of about one third in non-fatal myocardial infarction, about one third in non-fatal stroke, and about one third in vascular death (each 2P < 0.00001). There was no evidence that non-vascular deaths were increased, so in each of the four main high risk categories overall mortality was significantly reduced. The most widely tested antiplatelet regimen was "medium dose" (75-325 mg/day) aspirin. Doses throughout this range seemed similarly effective (although in an acute emergency it might be prudent to use an initial dose of 160-325 mg rather than about 75 mg). There was no appreciable evidence that either a higher aspirin dose or any other antiplatelet regimen was more effective than medium dose aspirin in preventing vascular events. The optimal duration of treatment for patients with a past history of myocardial infarction, stroke, or transient ischaemic attack could not be determined directly because most trials lasted only one, two, or three years (average about two years). Nevertheless, there was significant (2P < 0.0001) further benefit between the end of year 1 and the end of year 3, suggesting that longer treatment might well be more effective. Among low risk recipients of "primary prevention" a significant reduction of one third in non-fatal myocardial infarction was, however, accompanied by a non-significant increase in stroke. Furthermore, the absolute reduction in vascular events was much smaller than for high risk patients despite a much longer treatment period (4.4% antiplatelet therapy v 4.8% control; five year
PMCID: PMC2539220  PMID: 8298418
8.  A randomised controlled trial of antiplatelet therapy in combination with Rt-PA thrombolysis in ischemic stroke: rationale and design of the ARTIS-Trial 
Trials  2010;11:51.
Thrombolysis with intravenous rt-PA is currently the only approved acute therapy for ischemic stroke. Re-occlusion after initial recanalization occurs in up to 34% in patients treated with rt-PA, probably caused by platelet activation. In acute myocardial infarction, the combination of thrombolysis and antiplatelet therapy leads to a greater reduction of mortality compared to thrombolysis alone. In patients with acute ischemic stroke, several studies showed that patients already on antiplatelet treatment prior to thrombolysis had an equal or even better outcome compared to patients without prior antiplatelet treatment, despite an increased risk of intracerebral bleeding. Based on the fear of intracerebral haemorrhage, current international guidelines recommend postponing antiplatelet therapy until 24 hours after thrombolysis. Remarkably, prior use of antiplatelet therapy is not a contra-indication for thrombolysis. We hypothesize that antiplatelet therapy in combination with rt-PA thrombolysis will improve outcome by enhancing fibrinolysis and preventing re-occlusion.
ARTIS is a randomised multi-center controlled trial with blind endpoint assessment. Our objective is to investigate whether immediate addition of aspirin to rt-PA thrombolysis improves functional outcome in ischemic stroke. Patients with acute ischemic stroke eligible for rt-PA thrombolysis are randomised to receive 300 mg aspirin within 1.5 hours after start of thrombolysis or standard care, consisting of antiplatelet therapy after 24 hours. Primary outcome is poor functional health at 3 months follow-up (modified Rankin Scale 3 - 6).
This is the first clinical trial investigating the combination of rt-PA and acute aspirin by means of a simple and cheap adjustment of current antiplatelet regimen. We expect the net benefit of improved functional outcome will overcome the possible slightly increased risk of intracerebral haemorrhage.
Trial registration
The Netherlands National Trial Register NTR822. The condensed rationale of the ARTIS-Trial has already been published in Cerebrovascular Diseases.
PMCID: PMC2886039  PMID: 20459856
9.  Vascular quality of care pilot study: how admission to a vascular surgery service affects evidence-based pharmacologic risk factor modification in patients with lower extremity peripheral arterial disease 
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) guidelines recommend aggressive risk factor modification to improve cardiovascular outcomes. Recommended pharmacologic therapies include antiplatelets, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and HMG-CoA-reductase inhibitors (statins).
We studied the degree to which patient admission to a vascular surgery service increased the use of these therapies.
Patients and methods
The authors conducted a retrospective chart review of 150 patients with PAD admitted to the vascular surgery service at a large Canadian tertiary care hospital. The use of recommended pharmacologic therapies at the time of admission and discharge were compared. A multidisciplinary clinical team established criteria by which patients were deemed ineligible to receive any of the recommended therapies. Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) were considered an alternative to ACE inhibitors.
Prior to hospital admission, 64% of patients were on antiplatelet therapy, 67% were on an ACE inhibitor or ARB, and 71% were on a statin. At the time of discharge, 91% of patients were on an antiplatelet (or not, with an acceptable reason), 77% were on an ACE inhibitor or an ARB (or not, with an acceptable reason), and 85% were on a statin (or not, with an acceptable reason). While new prescriptions were largely responsible for improved guideline adherence with antiplatelets and statins, most of the apparent improvement in ACE inhibitor and ARB use was the result of identifying an acceptable reason for not having them prescribed.
This hypothesis generating pilot study supports the findings of others that there is suboptimal prescription of pharmacologic risk reduction therapies in the PAD population. Admission to a vascular service increases these rates. Nevertheless, some patients are still not receiving evidence-based treatment at discharge even after consideration of acceptable reasons. Strategies are needed to improve PAD guideline adherence in both the community at large and the vascular surgery service.
PMCID: PMC4051795  PMID: 24940068
guideline adherence; vascular protection; risk reduction
10.  Emergency Department Administration of Thienopyridines in NSTEMI: Results from the ACTION Registry®-GWTG™ Registry 
AHA/ACC guidelines recommend that patients with definite unstable angina or non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) receive dual antiplatelet therapy on presentation to the hospital when undergoing early invasive management or “as soon as possible” after admission when being managed conservatively. The guidelines do not specify whether these medications should be administered in the emergency department (ED). Our aim was to determine whether ED administration of a thienopyridine was associated with clinical outcomes among patients with NSTEMI.
We examined thienopyridine use in 39,454 patients with NSTEMI who received a thienopyridine within 24 hours of presentation in the NCDR’s ACTIONRegistry®-GWTG™ from 1/2007–6/2010. Patients who were not seen initially in the ED, were transferred in, or were missing time data were excluded. We analyzed the association between ED administration of thienopyridines and outcomes and patient demographics.
Of the cohort receiving a thienopyridine within 24 hours, 9534 (24.2%) received it in the ED. ED administration of a thienopyridine was not associated with in-hospital major bleeding (multivariable adjusted OR 0.99; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.91–1.09) or in-hospital mortality (adjusted 1.02, 95% CI 0.86–1.20). Independent predictors most strongly associated with ED thienopyridine administration were elevated troponin, ED length of stay, prior percutaneous coronary intervention, and initial electrocardiogram showing ischemic changes.
There was no association between ED thienopyridine administration and in-hospital major bleeding or mortality. ED length of stay, ECG changes and elevated troponin were associated with ED thienopyridine administration.
PMCID: PMC4045403  PMID: 23702070
Thienopyridines; Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction; Outcomes
11.  How Evidence-Based Are the Recommendations in Evidence-Based Guidelines? 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(8):e250.
Treatment recommendations for the same condition from different guideline bodies often disagree, even when the same randomized controlled trial (RCT) evidence is cited. Guideline appraisal tools focus on methodology and quality of reporting, but not on the nature of the supporting evidence. This study was done to evaluate the quality of the evidence (based on consideration of its internal validity, clinical relevance, and applicability) underlying therapy recommendations in evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.
Methods and Findings
A cross-sectional analysis of cardiovascular risk management recommendations was performed for three different conditions (diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, and hypertension) from three pan-national guideline panels (from the United States, Canada, and Europe). Of the 338 treatment recommendations in these nine guidelines, 231 (68%) cited RCT evidence but only 105 (45%) of these RCT-based recommendations were based on high-quality evidence. RCT-based evidence was downgraded most often because of reservations about the applicability of the RCT to the populations specified in the guideline recommendation (64/126 cases, 51%) or because the RCT reported surrogate outcomes (59/126 cases, 47%).
The results of internally valid RCTs may not be applicable to the populations, interventions, or outcomes specified in a guideline recommendation and therefore should not always be assumed to provide high-quality evidence for therapy recommendations.
From an analysis of cardiovascular risk-management recommendations in guidelines produced by pan-national panels, McAlister and colleagues concluded that fewer than half were based on high-quality evidence.
Editors' Summary
Until recently, doctors largely relied on their own experience to choose the best treatment for their patients. Faced with a patient with high blood pressure (hypertension), for example, the doctor had to decide whether to recommend lifestyle changes or to prescribe drugs to reduce the blood pressure. If he or she chose the latter, he or she then had to decide which drug to prescribe, set a target blood pressure, and decide how long to wait before changing the prescription if this target was not reached. But, over the past decade, numerous clinical practice guidelines have been produced by governmental bodies and medical associations to help doctors make treatment decisions like these. For each guideline, experts have searched the medical literature for the current evidence about the diagnosis and treatment of a disease, evaluated the quality of that evidence, and then made recommendations based on the best evidence available.
Why Was This Study Done?
The recommendations made in different clinical practice guidelines vary, in part because they are based on evidence of varying quality. To help clinicians decide which recommendations to follow, some guidelines indicate the strength of their recommendations by grading them, based on the methods used to collect the underlying evidence. Thus, a randomized clinical trial (RCT)—one in which patients are randomly allocated to different treatments without the patient or clinician knowing the allocation—provides higher-quality evidence than a nonrandomized trial. Similarly, internally valid trials—in which the differences between patient groups are solely due to their different treatments and not to other aspects of the trial—provide high-quality evidence. However, grading schemes rarely consider the size of studies and whether they have focused on clinical or so-called “surrogate” measures. (For example, an RCT of a treatment to reduce heart or circulation [“cardiovascular”] problems caused by high blood pressure might have death rate as a clinical measure; a surrogate endpoint would be blood pressure reduction.) Most guidelines also do not consider how generalizable (applicable) the results of a trial are to the populations, interventions, and outcomes specified in the guideline recommendation. In this study, the researchers have investigated the quality of the evidence underlying recommendations for cardiovascular risk management in nine evidence-based clinical practice guides using these additional criteria.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers extracted the recommendations for managing cardiovascular risk from the current US, Canadian, and European guidelines for the management of diabetes, abnormal blood lipid levels (dyslipidemia), and hypertension. They graded the quality of evidence for each recommendation using the Canadian Hypertension Education Program (CHEP) grading scheme, which considers the type of study, its internal validity, its clinical relevance, and how generally applicable the evidence is considered to be. Of 338 evidence-based recommendations, two-thirds were based on evidence collected in internally valid RCTs, but only half of these RCT-based recommendations were based on high-quality evidence. The evidence underlying 64 of the guideline recommendations failed to achieve a high CHEP grade because the RCT data were collected in a population of people with different characteristics to those covered by the guideline. For example, a recommendation to use spironolactone to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension was based on an RCT in which the participants initially had congestive heart failure with normal blood pressure. Another 59 recommendations were downgraded because they were based on evidence from RCTs that had not focused on clinical measures of effectiveness.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that although most of the recommendations for cardiovascular risk management therapies in the selected guidelines were based on evidence collected in internally valid RCTs, less than one-third were based on high-quality evidence applicable to the populations, treatments, and outcomes specified in guideline recommendations. A limitation of this study is that it analyzed a subset of recommendations in only a few guidelines. Nevertheless, the findings serve to warn clinicians that evidence-based guidelines are not necessarily based on high-quality evidence. In addition, they emphasize the need to make the evidence base underlying guideline recommendations more transparent by using an extended grading system like the CHEP scheme. If this were done, the researchers suggest, it would help clinicians apply guideline recommendations appropriately to their individual patients.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• Wikipedia contains pages on evidence-based medicine and on clinical practice guidelines (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
• The National Guideline Clearinghouse provides information on US national guidelines
• The Guidelines International Network promotes the systematic development and application of clinical practice guidelines
• Information is available on the Canadian Hypertension Education Program (CHEP) (in French and English)
• See information on the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) working group, an organization that has developed an grading scheme similar to the CHEP scheme (in English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian)
PMCID: PMC1939859  PMID: 17683197
12.  Antiplatelet and Antithrombin Strategies in Acute Coronary Syndrome: State-Of-The-Art Review 
Current Cardiology Reviews  2012;8(3):239-249.
Antiplatelet and antithrombotic agents significantly alter the clinical course of patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and hence form the bedrock of the management pathway of this closely related continuum of coronary pathologies. The contemporary therapeutic armamentarium for the treatment of ACS now reflects the many technical and pharmacological advances that took place over the last two decades. In the original 1996 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) guidelines for the management of acute myocardial infarction, only one antiplatelet agent (Aspirin) and one anticoagulant (unfractionated heparin) were recommended as class I therapies. Since then many newer agents have been developed and approved for routine clinical use in ACS patients. Recent research has focussed on improving efficacy on one hand and reducing bleeding complications on the other. This review focuses on the mechanism, efficacy, safety profile and clinical trial evidence of P2 Y12 receptor antagonist antiplatelet agents, glycoprotein IIb/IIIa receptor inhibitors (GPI), protease-activated receptor-1 (PAR-1) inhibitors, thrombin inhibitor bivalirudin and Factor Xa inhibitors fondaparinaux and rivaroxaban.
PMCID: PMC3465830  PMID: 22935021
Acute coronary syndrome; ACS; antiplatelet agents; antithrombotic agents; bivalirudin; cangrelor; NSTEMI; STEMI.
13.  Oral antiplatelet therapy for atherothrombotic disease: overview of current and emerging treatment options 
Clinical presentations of atherothrombotic vascular disease, such as acute coronary syndromes, ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack, and symptomatic peripheral arterial disease, are major causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Platelet activation and aggregation play a seminal role in the arterial thrombus formation that precipitates acute manifestations of atherothrombotic disease. As a result, antiplatelet therapy has become the cornerstone of therapy for the prevention and treatment of atherothrombotic disease. Dual antiplatelet therapy with aspirin and a P2Y12 adenosine diphosphate (ADP) receptor inhibitor, such as clopidogrel or prasugrel, is the current standard-of-care antiplatelet therapy in patients with acute coronary syndromes managed with an early invasive strategy. However, these agents are associated with several important clinical limitations, including significant residual risk for ischemic events, bleeding risk, and variability in the degree of platelet inhibition. The residual risk can be attributed to the fact that aspirin and P2Y12 inhibitors block only the thromboxane A2 and ADP platelet activation pathways but do not affect the other pathways that lead to thrombosis, such as the protease-activated receptor-1 pathway stimulated by thrombin, the most potent platelet agonist. Bleeding risk associated with aspirin and P2Y12 inhibitors can be explained by their inhibitory effects on the thromboxane A2 and ADP pathways, which are critical for protective hemostasis. Interpatient variability in the degree of platelet inhibition in response to antiplatelet therapy may have a genetic component and contribute to poor clinical outcomes. These considerations underscore the clinical need for therapies with a novel mechanism of action that may reduce ischemic events without increasing the bleeding risk.
PMCID: PMC3292409  PMID: 22393298
acute coronary syndromes; antiplatelet therapy; ADP; thromboxane A2; PAR-1; bleeding
14.  Efficacy and safety of 12 versus 48 months of dual antiplatelet therapy after implantation of a drug-eluting stent: the OPTImal DUAL antiplatelet therapy (OPTIDUAL) trial: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2013;14:56.
Dual antiplatelet therapy with aspirin and thienopyridine is required after placement of coronary drug-eluting stents (DES) to prevent thrombotic complications. Current clinical guidelines recommend at least 6 to 12 months of treatment after a DES implantation, but it may be beneficial to apply dual antiplatelet therapy for a longer duration.
The optimal dual antiplatelet therapy (OPTIDUAL) study aims to compare the benefits and risks of dual antiplatelet therapy applied for either 12 or 48 months. We will examine the occurrence of major adverse cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events (MACCE) in patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention with DES for the treatment of coronary lesions. The OPTIDUAL study is an open-label multicenter, randomized, national trial that will include 1,966 patients treated with DES. All patients will be treated with dual antiplatelet therapy for 12 months (+/− 3). Then, patients with no MACCE or major bleeding will be randomized to receive either 36 additional months of clopidogrel plus aspirin or aspirin only. The primary end-point is the combination of death from all causes, myocardial infarction, stroke and major bleeding. The secondary end points include the individual components of the primary end-point, stent thrombosis, repeat revascularization of the treated vessel and minor bleeding.
This randomized trial is designed to assess the benefits and safety of 12 versus 48 months of dual antiplatelet therapy in patients that receive a DES. We aim to determine whether substantial prolongation of clopidogrel (a thienopyridine) after DES implantation offers an advantage over its discontinuation.
Trial registration Identifier: NCT00822536
PMCID: PMC3598827  PMID: 23433461
Drug-eluting stent; Clopidogrel; Coronary artery disease; Stent thrombosis; Randomized clinical trial
15.  Collaborative overview of randomised trials of antiplatelet therapy--II: Maintenance of vascular graft or arterial patency by antiplatelet therapy. Antiplatelet Trialists' Collaboration. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1994;308(6922):159-168.
OBJECTIVE--To determine the efficacy of antiplatelet therapy in maintaining vascular patency in various categories of patients. DESIGN--Overviews of 46 randomised trials of antiplatelet therapy versus control and 14 randomised trials comparing one antiplatelet regimen with another. SETTING--Randomised trials that could have been available by March 1990 and in which vascular graft or arterial patency was to be studied systematically. SUBJECTS--About 8000 patients at varying degrees of risk of vascular occlusion (by virtue of disease or of having some vascular procedure) were in trials of antiplatelet therapy versus control and 4000 such patients were in trials directly comparing different antiplatelet regimens. RESULTS--Overall, antiplatelet therapy produced a highly significant (2P < 0.0001) reduction in vascular occlusion, with similar proportional reductions in several different types of patients. Hence the absolute reductions tended to be largest among patients at highest risk of occlusion, with smaller but still significant absolute reductions among lower risk patients. The proportions of patients with confirmed occlusion among those allocated antiplatelet therapy versus appropriately adjusted control proportions (and mean scheduled treatment durations and net absolute benefits) were: (a) among about 4000 patients with coronary artery grafts, 21% antiplatelet therapy v 30% control (seven month benefit about 90 patients protected per 1000 allocated antiplatelet therapy (2P < 0.00001)); (b) among about 800 patients after coronary angioplasty, 4% antiplatelet therapy v 8% control (six month benefit about 40/1000 (2P = 0.02)); (c) among about 3000 patients with peripheral artery procedures or disease, 16% antiplatelet therapy v 25% control (19 month benefit about 90/1000 (2P < 0.00001)); (d) among about 400 renal patients with a shunt or fistula placed for haemodialysis access, 17% antiplatelet therapy v 39% control (two month benefit about 200/1000 (2P < 0.00001)). Indirect comparisons between the effects of starting treatment before these vascular procedures and starting soon after them indicated similar sized benefits. As well as preventing subclinical occlusion, antiplatelet therapy produced a significant (2P = 0.002) reduction of about one quarter in the odds of suffering a "vascular event" (non-fatal myocardial infarction, non-fatal stroke, or vascular death). Various antiplatelet regimens (chiefly aspirin alone or aspirin plus dipyridamole) were studied but there was no significant evidence of differences between their effects on arterial occlusion or vascular events. Data on bleeding were incomplete but no large excess with antiplatelet therapy was apparent. CONCLUSION--Antiplatelet therapy (chiefly aspirin alone or aspirin plus dipyridamole) greatly reduces the risk of vascular occlusion in a wide range of patients at high risk of this complication. Further studies are required to determine exactly when treatment should start (to limit any perioperative bleeding while still preventing most early occlusion) and for how long it should be continued.
PMCID: PMC2542519  PMID: 8312766
16.  Interaction between clopidogrel and proton-pump inhibitors and management strategies in patients with cardiovascular diseases 
Dual antiplatelet therapy (DAPT) with clopidogrel and aspirin has been successful in reducing ischemic events in a wide range of patients with cardiovascular diseases. However, the anti-ischemic effects of DAPT may also be associated with gastrointestinal (GI) complications including ulceration and bleeding particularly in ‘high risk’ and elderly patients. Current guidelines recommend the use of proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) to reduce the risk of GI bleeding in patients treated with DAPT. However, pharmacodynamic studies suggest an effect of PPIs on clopidogrel metabolism with a resultant reduction in platelet inhibitory effects. Similarly, several observational studies have demonstrated reduced clopidogrel benefit in patients who coadministered PPIs. Although recent US Food and Drug Administration and European Medicines Agency statements discourage PPI (particularly omeprazole) and clopidogrel coadministration, the 2009 AHA/ACC/SCAI PCI guidelines do not support a change in current practice in the absence of adequately powered prospective randomized clinical trial data. The data regarding pharmacologic and clinical interactions between PPI and clopidogrel therapies are herein examined and treatment strategies are provided.
PMCID: PMC3108705  PMID: 21701635
cardiovascular disease; gastrointestinal; proton-pump inhibitor; antiplatelet therapy
17.  Adoption of prasugrel into routine practice: rationale and design of the Rijnmond Collective Cardiology Research (CCR) study in percutaneous coronary intervention for acute coronary syndromes 
Netherlands Heart Journal  2013;22(2):55-61.
Platelet inhibition is crucial in reducing both short- and long-term atherothrombotic risks in patients with acute coronary syndromes (ACS) managed with percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). Based on randomised trials, recent recommendations in the current guidelines include the endorsement of prasugrel as a first-choice adenosine diphosphate receptor inhibitor. Yet, there is limited experience with the use of prasugrel in routine practice.
The Rijnmond Collective Cardiology Research (CCR) registry is a prospective, observational study that will follow-up 4000 PCI-treated ACS patients in the larger region of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Based on recently implemented hospital protocols, all patients will receive prasugrel as first-choice antiplatelet agent, unless contraindicated, in accordance with European guidelines, and will be followed for up to 1 year post-discharge for longitudinal assessment of outcomes and bleeding events. This registry exemplifies a collaborative study design that employs a regional PCI registry platform and provides feedback to participating sites regarding their practice patterns, thereby supporting and promoting improvement of quality of care.
The CCR registry will evaluate the adoption of prasugrel into routine clinical practice and thus, will provide important evidence with regard to the benefits and risks of real-world utilisation of prasugrel as antiplatelet therapy in PCI-treated ACS patients.
PMCID: PMC3967557  PMID: 24072688
Acute coronary syndrome; Percutaneous coronary intervention
18.  Socioeconomic Disparities in Use of Cardioprotective Medications Among Patients with Peripheral Artery Disease—An Analysis of the American College of Cardiology’s NCDR PINNACLE Registry® 
Examine disparities in use of cardioprotective medications in treatment of peripheral artery disease (PAD) by socioeconomic status (SES).
PAD is associated with increased cardiovascular risk and is more prevalent among those of lower SES. However, the use of guideline-recommended secondary preventive measures for the treatment of PAD across diverse income subgroups and the influence of practice site on potential treatment disparities by SES are unknown.
Within the National Cardiovascular Disease Registry (NCDR®) PINNACLE Registry®, 62,690 patients with PAD were categorized into quintiles of SES, as defined by the median income of each patient’s zip code. The association between SES and secondary prevention treatment with antiplatelet and statin medications was evaluated using sequential hierarchical modified Poison models, adjusting first for practice site and then for clinical variables.
Compared with the highest SES quintile (median income >$60,868), PAD patients in the lowest SES quintile (median income <$34,486) were treated less often with statins (72.5 % vs. 85.8%; RR 0.84 [0.83–0.86]; P<0.001) and antiplatelet therapy (79.0% vs. 84.6 %; RR 0.93 [95% CI: 0.91–0.94]; P<0.001). These differences were markedly attenuated after controlling for practice site variation: statins (adjusted RR: 0.97 [0.95–0.99]; P=0.003) and antiplatelet therapy (adjusted RR 0.98 [0.97–1.00]; P=0.012). Additional adjustment for patients’ clinical characteristics had minimal impact with slight further attenuation: statins (adjusted RR: 1.00 [0.99–1.01]; p=0.772) and antiplatelet therapy (adjusted RR: 1.00 [0.99–1.01]; p=0.878).
Among PAD patients, the practice site at which patients received care largely explained the observed SES differences in treatment with guidelines-recommended secondary prevention medications. Future efforts to reduce treatment disparities in these vulnerable populations should target systems improvement at practices serving high proportions of patients with low SES.
PMCID: PMC3912073  PMID: 23643497
19.  Dual antiplatelet therapy in patients requiring urgent coronary artery bypass grafting surgery: A position statement of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society 
The Canadian Journal of Cardiology  2009;25(12):683-689.
Acute coronary syndrome (ACS) guidelines recommend that most patients receive dual antiplatelet therapy with clopidogrel and acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) at the time of presentation to prevent recurrent ischemic events. Approximately 10% of ACS patients require coronary artery bypass grafting surgery (CABG) during the index admission. Most studies show that patients who receive ASA and clopidogrel within five days of CABG have an increase in operative bleeding. Current consensus guidelines recommend discontinuation of clopidogrel therapy at least five days before planned CABG to reduce bleeding-related events. However, high-risk individuals may require urgent surgery without delay, to reduce the risk of potentially fatal ischemic events. The present multidisciplinary position statement provides evidence-based recommendations for the optimal use of dual antiplatelet therapy to balance ischemic and bleeding risks in patients with recent ACS who may require urgent CABG.
All ACS patients should be considered for dual antiplatelet therapy with ASA and clopidogrel at the earliest opportunity, despite the possibility of a need for urgent CABG.
For patients who have received clopidogrel and ASA, and require CABG: Those at high risk of an early fatal event (eg, with refractory ischemia despite optimal medical treatment, and with high-risk coronary anatomy (eg, severe left main stenosis with severe right coronary artery disease), should be considered for early surgery without discontinuation of clopidogrel.In patients with a high bleeding risk (eg, previous surgery, complex surgery) who are also at high risk for an ischemic event, consideration should be given to discontinuing clopidogrel for three to five days before surgery.Patients at a lower risk for ischemic events (most patients) should have clopidogrel discontinued five days before surgery.
For patients who have CABG within five days of receiving clopidogrel and ASA, the risk of major bleeding and transfusion can be minimized by applying multiple strategies before and during surgery.
Patients who receive clopidogrel pre-CABG for a recent ACS indication should have clopidogrel restarted after surgery to decrease the risk of recurrent ACS.
For patients with a recent coronary stent, the decision to continue clopidogrel until the time of surgery or to discontinue will depend on the risk and potential impact of stent thrombosis. Restarting clopidogrel after CABG will depend on whether the stented vessel was revascularized, the type of stent and the time from stent implantation. Clopidogrel should be restarted when hemostasis is assured to prevent recurrent acute ischemic events.
PMCID: PMC2807829  PMID: 19960127
Acute coronary syndromes; Clopidogrel; Coronary artery bypass surgery; Dual antiplatelet therapy
20.  Knowledge and attitudes of primary care physicians in the management of patients at risk for cardiovascular events 
BMC Family Practice  2008;9:42.
Adherence to clinical practice guidelines for management of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is suboptimal. The purposes of this study were to identify practice patterns and barriers among U.S. general internists and family physicians in regard to cardiovascular risk management, and examine the association between physician characteristics and cardiovascular risk management.
A case vignette survey focused on cardiovascular disease risk management was distributed to a random sample of 12,000 U.S. family physicians and general internists between November and December 2006.
Responses from a total of 888 practicing primary care physicians who see 60 patients per week were used for analysis. In an asymptomatic patient at low risk for cardiovascular event, 28% of family physicians and 37% of general internists made guideline-based preventive choices for no antiplatelet therapy (p < .01). In a patient at high risk for cardiovascular event, 59% of family physicians and 56% of general internists identified the guideline-based goal for serum fasting LDL level (< 100 mg/dl). Guideline adherence was inversely related to years in practice and volume of patients seen. Cost of medications (87.7%), adherence to medications (74.1%), adequate time for counseling (55.7%), patient education tools (47.1%), knowledge and skills to recommend dietary changes (47.8%) and facilitate patient adherence (52.0%) were cited as significant barriers to CVD risk management.
Despite the benefits demonstrated for managing cardiovascular risks, gaps remain in primary care practitioners' management of risks according to guideline recommendations. Innovative educational approaches that address barriers may facilitate the implementation of guideline-based recommendations in CVD risk management.
PMCID: PMC2474612  PMID: 18611255
21.  Does Pre-existing Antiplatelet Treatment Influence Post-thrombolysis Intracranial Hemorrhage in Community-treated Ischemic Stroke Patients? An Observational Study 
Intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) after acute stroke thrombolysis is associated with poor outcomes. Previous investigations of the relationship between pre-existing antiplatelet use and the safety of intravenous (IV) thrombolysis have been limited by low event rates. The objective of this study was to determine whether pre-existing antiplatelet therapy increased the risk of ICH following acute stroke thrombolysis. The primary hypothesis was that antiplatelet use would not be associated with radiographic evidence of ICH after controlling for relevant confounders.
Consecutive cases of thrombolysis patients treated in the emergency department (ED) were identified using multiple methods. Retrospective data were collected from four hospitals from 1996 to 2004, and 24 distinct hospitals from 2007 to 2010 as part of a cluster randomized trial. The same chart abstraction tool was used during both time periods, and data were subjected to numerous quality control checks. Hemorrhages were classified using a pre-specified methodology: ICH was defined as presence of hemorrhage in radiographic interpretations of follow-up imaging (primary outcome). Symptomatic ICH (sICH) was defined as radiographic ICH with associated clinical worsening. A multivariable logistic regression model was constructed to adjust for clinical factors previously identified to be related to post-thrombolysis ICH. Sensitivity analyses were conducted where the unadjusted and adjusted results from this study were combined with those of previously published external studies on this topic via meta-analytic techniques.
There were 830 patients included, with 47% having documented pre-existing antiplatelet treatment. The mean age was 69 years (SD ± 15 years), and the cohort was 53% male. The unadjusted proportion of patients with any ICH was 15.1% without antiplatelet use, and 19.3% with antiplatelet use (absolute risk difference 4.2%, 95% CI = −1.2% to 9.6%); for sICH this was 6.1% without antiplatelet use and 9% with antiplatelet use (absolute risk difference 3.1%, 95% CI = −1% to 6.7%). After adjusting for confounders, antiplatelet use was not significantly associated with radiographic ICH (odds ratio 1.1, 95% CI = 0.8 to 1.7), or sICH (odds ratio 1.3, 95% CI = 0.7 to 2.2). In patients 81 years and older, there was a higher risk of radiographic ICH (absolute risk difference 11.9%, 95% CI = 0.1% to 23.6%). The meta-analyses combined the findings of this investigation with previous similar work and found increased unadjusted risks of radiographic ICH (absolute risk difference 4.9%, 95% CI = 0.7% to 9%) and sICH (absolute risk difference 4%, 95% CI = 2.3% to 5.6%). The meta-analytic adjusted odds ratio of sICH for antiplatelet use was 1.6 (95% CI = 1.1 to 2.4).
The authors did not find that pre-existing antiplatelet use was associated with post-thrombolysis ICH or sICH in this cohort of community treated patients. Pre-existing tobacco use, younger age, and lower severity were associated with lower odds of sICH. The meta-analyses demonstrated small, but statistically significant increases in the absolute risk of radiographic ICH and sICH, along with increased odds of sICH in patients with pre-existing antiplatelet use.
PMCID: PMC3576048  PMID: 23406073
22.  Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP) 
Executive Summary
To assess the effectiveness, and cost effectiveness of EECP in patients with severe anginal symptoms, secondary to chronic coronary disease, who are unresponsive to exhaustive pharmacotherapy and not candidates for surgical/percutaneous revascularization procedures (e.g., angioplasty, coronary bypass surgery).
To assess the effectiveness, and cost effectiveness of EECP in patients with heart failure.
Clinical Need
Angina is a clinical syndrome characterized by discomfort in the chest, jaw, shoulder, back or arm. Angina usually occurs in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) involving ≥1 large epicardial artery. However it can also occur in people with valvular heart disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and uncontrolled hypertension.
Conventional approaches to restoring the balance between oxygen supply and demand focus on the disruption of the underlying disease through: drug therapy (β blockers, calcium channel blockers, nitrates, antiplatelet agents, ACE inhibitors, statins); life-style modifications (smoking cessation, weight loss); or revascularization techniques such as coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) or percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI). (1) Limitations of each of these approaches include: adverse drug effects, procedure-related mortality and morbidity, restenosis after PCI, and time dependent graft attrition after CABG. Furthermore, an increasing number of patients are not appropriate candidates for standard revascularization options, due to co-morbid conditions (HF, peripheral vascular disease), poor distal coronary artery targets, and patient preference. The morbidity and mortality associated with repeat surgical revascularization procedures are significantly higher, and often excludes these patients from consideration for further revascularizations. (2)
Patients with CAD who have chronic ischemic symptoms that are unresponsive to both conventional medical therapy and revascularization techniques have refractory angina pectoris. It has been estimated that greater than 100,000 patients each year in the US may be diagnosed as having this condition. (3) Patients with refractory angina have marked limitation of ordinary physical activity or are unable to perform any ordinary physical activity without discomfort (CCS functional class III/IV). Also, there must be some objective evidence of ischemia as demonstrated by exercise treadmill testing, stress imaging studies or coronary physiologic studies. (1)
Dejongste et al. (4)estimated that the prevalence of chronic refractory angina is about 100,000 patients in the United States. This would correspond to approximately 3,800 (100,000 x 3.8% [Ontario is approximately 3.8% of the population of the United States]) patients in Ontario having chronic refractory angina.
Heart Failure
Heart failure results from any structural or functional cardiac disorder that impairs the ability of the heart to act as a pump.
A recent study (5) revealed 28,702 patients were hospitalized for first-time HF in Ontario between April 1994 and March 1997. Women comprised 51% of the cohort. Eighty-five percent were aged 65 years or older, and 58% were aged 75 years or older.
Patients with chronic HF experience shortness of breath, a limited capacity for exercise, high rates of hospitalization and rehospitalization, and die prematurely. (6) The New York Heart Association (NYHA) has provided a commonly used functional classification for the severity of HF (7):
Class I: No limitation of physical activity. No symptoms with ordinary exertion.
Class II: Slight limitations of physical activity. Ordinary activity causes symptoms.
Class III: Marked limitation of physical activity. Less than ordinary activity causes symptoms. Asymptomatic at rest.
Class IV: Inability to carry out any physical activity without discomfort. Symptoms at rest.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (7) estimates that 35% of patients with HF are in functional NYHA class I; 35% are in class II; 25%, class III; and 5%, class IV. Surveys (8) suggest that from 5% to 15% of patients with HF have persistent severe symptoms, and that the remainder of patients with HF is evenly divided between those with mild and moderately severe symptoms.
To date, the diagnosis and management of chronic HF has concentrated on patients with the clinical syndrome of HF accompanied by severe left ventricular systolic dysfunction. Major changes in treatment have resulted from a better understanding of the pathophysiology of HF and the results of large clinical trials. Treatment for chronic HF includes lifestyle management, drugs, cardiac surgery, or implantable pacemakers and defibrillators. Despite pharmacologic advances, which include diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, beta-blockers, spironolactone, and digoxin, many patients remain symptomatic on maximally tolerated doses. (6)
The Technology
Patients are typically treated by a trained technician in a medically supervised environment for 1 hour daily for a total of 35 hours over 7 weeks. The procedure involves sequential inflation and deflation of compressible cuffs wrapped around the patient’s calves, lower thighs and upper thighs. In addition to 3 sets of cuffs, the patient has finger plethysmogram and electrocardiogram (ECG) attachments that are connected to a control and display console.
External counterpulsation was used in the United States to treat cardiogenic shock after acute myocardial infarction. (9;10) More recently, an enhanced version namely “enhanced external counterpulsation” (EECP) was introduced as a noninvasive procedure for outpatient treatment of patients with severe, uncontrollable cardiac ischemia. EECP is said to increase coronary perfusion pressure and reduce the myocardial oxygen demand. Currently, EECP is not applicable for all patients with refractory angina pectoris. For example, many patients are considered ineligible for therapy due to co-morbidities, including those with severe pulmonary vascular disease, deep vein thrombosis, phlebitis and irregular heart rhythms, and heart failure. (1)
Very recently, investigation began into EECP as an adjunctive treatment for patients with HF. Anecdotal reports suggested that EECP may benefit patients with coronary disease and left ventricular dysfunction. The safety and effectiveness of EECP in patients with symptomatic heart failure and coronary disease and its role in patients with nonischemic heart failure secondary to LV dysfunction is unclear. Furthermore, the safety and effectiveness of EECP in the different stages of HF and whether it is only for patients who are refractive to pharmacotherapy is unknown.
2003 Health Technology Assessment by the Medical Advisory Secretariat
The Medical Advisory Secretariat health technology assessment (originally published in February 2003) reported on the effectiveness of EECP for patients with angina and HF. The report concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the use of EECP in patients with refractory stable CCS III/IV angina as well as insufficient evidence to support the use of EECP in patients with HF.
Review Strategy
The aim of this literature review was to assess the effectiveness, safety, and cost effectiveness of EECP for the treatment of refractory stable CCS III/IV angina or HF.
The standard search strategy used by the Medical Advisory Secretariat was used. This included a search of all international health technology assessments as well as a search of the medical literature from December 2002 to March 2006.
A modification of the GRADE approach (11) was used to make judgments about the quality of evidence and strength of recommendations systematically and explicitly. GRADE provides a framework for structured reflection and can help to ensure that appropriate judgments are made. GRADE takes into account a study’s design, quality, consistency, and directness in judging the quality of evidence for each outcome. The balance between benefits and harms, quality of evidence, applicability, and the certainty of the baseline risks are considered in judgments about the strength of recommendations.
Summary of Findings
The Cochrane and INAHTA databases yielded 3 HTAs or systematic reviews on EECP treatment (Blue Cross Blue Shield Technology Evaluation Center [BCBS TEC], ECRI, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [CMS]). A search of Medline and Embase December 2005 – March 2006 (after the literature search cutoff from the most recent HTA) was conducted using key words enhanced external counterpulsation, EECP, angina, myocardial ischemia, congestive heart failure. This search produced 1 study which met the inclusion criteria. This level 4a study was inferior in quality to the RCT which formed the basis of the 2003 Medical Advisory Secretariat recommendation.
BCBS reviewed the evidence through November 2005 to determine if EECP improves health outcomes for refractory chronic stable angina pectoris or chronic stable HF. (12) BCBS concluded that the available evidence is not sufficient to permit conclusions of the effect of EECP on health outcomes. Both controlled trials had methodologic flaws (MUST EECP and MUST EECP quality of life studies). The case series and observational studies for both indications while suggestive of a treatment benefit from EECP have shortcomings as well.
On March 20 2006, CMS posted their proposed coverage decision memorandum for external counterpulsation therapy. (13) Overall, CMS stated that the evidence is not adequate to conclude that external counterpulsation therapy is reasonable and necessary for:
Canadian Cardiovascular Society Classification (CCSC) II angina
Heart failure
NYHA class II/III stable HF symptoms with an EF≤35%
NYHA class II/III stable HF symptoms with an EF≤40%
NYHA class IV HF
Acute HF
Cardiogenic shock
Acute MI
In January 2005, ECRI (14) stated that there was insufficient evidence available to draw conclusions about the long-term effectiveness of EECP, with respect to morbidity, survival, or quality of life, for any coronary indication (refractory angina, congestive heart failure, cardiogenic shock and acute MI).
GRADE Quality of the Studies
According to the GRADE Working Group criteria, the quality of the trials was examined (Table 1). (11)
Quality refers to the criteria such as the adequacy of allocation concealment, blinding and followup.
Consistency refers to the similarity of estimates of effect across studies. If there is important unexplained inconsistency in the results, our confidence in the estimate of effect for that outcome decreases. Differences in the direction of effect, the size of the differences in effect and the significance of the differences guide the decision about whether important inconsistency exists.
Directness refers to the extent to which the people interventions and outcome measures are similar to those of interest. For example, there may be uncertainty about the directness of the evidence if the people of interest are older, sicker or have more comorbidity than those in the studies.
As stated by the GRADE Working Group, the following definitions were used in grading the quality of the evidence. (11)
GRADE Quality of Studies
Economic Analysis - Literature Review
No economic analysis of EECP was identified in the published literature.
Estimated Prevalence of Angina in Ontario
3,800 patients with chronic refractory angina:
The number of patients with chronic refractory angina in the US is estimated to be approximately 100,000 (4), this corresponds to about 3,800 patients in Ontario (3.8% × 100,000) with refractory angina.
3,800 patients × $7,000 Cdn (approximate cost for a full course of therapy) ~ $26.6M Cdn.
Estimated Prevalence of Heart Failure in Ontario
23,700 patients EF ≤ 0.35:
This estimate is from an expert (personal communication) at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), where they examined a sample of echocardiography studies drawn from a diagnostic lab in 2001. They found that the prevalence of EF ≤ 0.35 was 8.3%, and if generalized to all patients undergoing echocardiography, there would be 23,700 patients.
23,700 patients with EF ≤35% × $7,000 Cdn ~ $166 M Cdn.
There is insufficient evidence to support the effectiveness and safety of EECP treatment for patients with refractory stable CCS III-IV angina or HF.
As per the GRADE Working Group, overall recommendations consider 4 main factors. (11)
The tradeoffs, taking into account the estimated size of the effect for the main outcome, the confidence limits around those estimates and the relative value placed on the outcome.
The quality of the evidence.
Translation of the evidence into practice in a specific setting, taking into consideration important factors that could be expected to modify the size of the expected effects such as proximity to a hospital or availability of necessary expertise.
Uncertainty about the baseline risk for the population of interest.
The GRADE Working Group also recommends that incremental costs of healthcare alternatives should be considered explicitly alongside the expected health benefits and harms. (11) Recommendations rely on judgments about the value of the incremental health benefits in relation to the incremental costs. The last column in Table 2 is the overall trade-off between benefits and harms and incorporates any risk/uncertainty.
For angina and heart failure, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendations is “weak” – the quality of the evidence is “low” (uncertainties due to methodological limitations in the study design in terms of study quality and directness), and the corresponding risk/uncertainty is increased due to a budget impact of approximately $26.6 M Cdn or $166 M Cdn respectively while the cost-effectiveness of EECP is unknown and difficult to estimate considering that there are no high quality studies of effectiveness.
Overall GRADE and Strength of Recommendation (Including Uncertainty)
PMCID: PMC3379533  PMID: 23074496
23.  Antiplatelet Therapy and Percutaneous Coronary Intervention in Patients with Acute Coronary Syndrome and Thrombocytopenia 
Texas Heart Institute Journal  2010;37(3):336-340.
Platelets are crucial in the pathogenesis of acute coronary syndrome. Treatment for acute coronary syndrome usually involves antiplatelet, anticoagulant, and antithrombotic therapy, and the performance of percutaneous coronary intervention. All of the medications are associated with bleeding sequelae and are typically withheld from patients who have thrombocytopenia. The safety of antiplatelet therapy and percutaneous coronary intervention in patients who have acute coronary syndrome and thrombocytopenia is unknown, and there are no guidelines or randomized studies to suggest a treatment approach in such patients.
Acute coronary syndrome is uncommon in patients who have thrombocytopenia; however, it occurs in up to 39% of patients who have both thrombocytopenia and cancer. Herein, we present the cases of 5 patients with acute coronary syndrome, thrombocytopenia, and cancer who underwent percutaneous coronary intervention with stenting. Before intervention, their platelet counts ranged from 17 to 72 × 109/L. One patient underwent preprocedural platelet transfusion. All were given aspirin, alone or with clopidogrel. One patient experienced melena (of colonic origin). No other patient experienced bleeding sequelae.
Aside from the occasional use of antiplatelet and thrombolytic agents in patients with thrombocytopenia, no therapeutic recommendation can be made until data are available on a larger patient population. Until then, treatment should conform to specific clinical circumstances. Approaches to the treatment of acute coronary syndrome in patients with thrombocytopenia might be better directed toward the evaluation of platelet function rather than toward absolute platelet count, and the risk–benefit equation of invasive procedures and antithrombotic therapies may need to incorporate this information.
PMCID: PMC2879212  PMID: 20548817
Angioplasty, transluminal, percutaneous coronary; anticoagulants/adverse effects; aspirin/therapeutic use; blood platelets/drug effects/physiology; coronary artery disease/physiopathology/prevention & control; hemorrhage/complications; myocardial infarction/drug therapy; neoplasms/complications; platelet aggregation inhibitors/administration & dosage/therapeutic use; platelet count/drug effects; thrombocytopenia/complications/drug therapy/etiology/prevention & control
24.  ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction and Myelodysplastic Syndrome with Acute Myeloid Leukemia Transformation 
Texas Heart Institute Journal  2014;41(2):234-237.
Acute myocardial infarction and acute myeloid leukemia are rarely reported as concomitant conditions. The management of ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) in patients who have acute myeloid leukemia is challenging: the leukemia-related thrombocytopenia, platelet dysfunction, and systemic coagulopathy increase the risk of bleeding, and the administration of thrombolytic agents can be fatal. We report the case of a 76-year-old man who presented emergently with STEMI, myelodysplastic syndrome, and newly recognized acute myeloid leukemia transformation. Standard antiplatelet and anticoagulation therapy were contraindicated by the patient's thrombocytopenia and by his reported ecchymosis and gingival bleeding upon admission. He declined cardiac catheterization, was provided palliative care, and died 2 hours after hospital admission.
We searched the English-language medical literature, found 8 relevant reports, and determined that the prognosis for patients with concomitant STEMI and acute myeloid leukemia is clearly worse than that for either individual condition. No guidelines exist to direct the management of STEMI and concomitant acute myeloid leukemia. In 2 reports, dual antiplatelet therapy, anticoagulation, and drug-eluting stent implantation were used without an increased risk of bleeding in the short term, even in the presence of thrombocytopenia. However, we think that a more conservative approach—balloon angioplasty with the provisional use of bare-metal stents—might be safer. Simultaneous chemotherapy for the acute myeloid leukemia is crucial. Older age seems to be a major risk factor: patients too frail for emergent treatment can die within hours or days.
PMCID: PMC4004476  PMID: 24808792
Angina, unstable/diagnosis/pathology; chest pain/etiology; combined modality therapy; coronary disease/blood; fatal outcome; leukemia, myeloid, acute/complications/therapy; myocardial infarction/complications/etiology; risk factors
25.  Prevalence of antiplatelet therapy in patients with diabetes 
To determine the prevalence of, and patient characteristics associated with, antiplatelet therapy in a cohort of primary care patients with Type 1 or Type2 diabetes.
Subjects participating in a randomized trial of a decision support system were interviewed at home and medication usage verified by a research assistant. Eligibility for antiplatelet therapy was determined by American Diabetes Association criteria and clinical contraindications. The association between antiplatelet use and patient characteristics was examined using bivariate and multivariate logistic regression.
The mean age of subjects was 64 years (range 31–93). The prevalence of antiplatelet use was 54% overall; 45% for subjects without known CVD vs. 78% for those with CVD; 46% for women vs. 63% for men; and 45% for younger subjects (age< 65) vs. 62% for senior citizens. After controlling for race/ethnicity, income, education, marital status, insurance status and prescription coverage, the following were associated with the use of antiplatelet therapy: presence of known CVD (OR 3.4 [2.2, 5.1]), male sex (OR 2.0 [1.4, 2.8]), and age > = 65 (OR 1.9 [1.3, 2.7]). The prevalence of antiplatelet therapy for younger women without CVD was 32.8% compared to a prevalence of 90.3% for older men with CVD.
Despite clinical practice guidelines recommending antiplatelet therapy for patients with diabetes, there are still many eligible patients not receiving this beneficial therapy, particularly patients under 65, women, and patients without known CVD. Effective methods to increase antiplatelet use should be considered at the national, community, practice and provider level.
PMCID: PMC1318485  PMID: 16321162

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