Curr Cardiol Rep. 2022 Jun 2. doi: 10.1007/s11886-022-01725-1. Online ahead of print.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: For decades, the standard of care for stable ischemic heart disease (SIHD) has been an ischemia-centric approach based on largely observational data suggesting a survival benefit of revascularization in patients with moderate-or-severe ischemia. In this article, we will objectively review the evolution of the ischemia paradigm, the trial evidence comparing revascularization to medical therapy in SIHD, and what contemporary practice should be in 2022.
RECENT FINDINGS: Randomized trials, including COURAGE and, most recently, the ISCHEMIA trial, have shown no reduction in “hard outcomes” like death and myocardial infarction (MI) in SIHD compared to medical therapy. The trial excluded high-risk patients with left main disease, low ejection fraction (EF) < 35%, and severe unacceptable angina. Irrespective of the severity of ischemia and the extent of coronary artery disease (CAD), revascularization did not offer any prognostic advantage over medical therapy. On the other hand, there was a durable improvement in symptoms. While there are many caveats to the ISCHEMIA trial, the overall strengths of the trial outweigh these limitations. The findings of ISCHEMIA are consistent with previous trials. It is time for the cardiology community to pivot towards medical therapy as the initial step for most patients with SIHD. Physicians should have the “COURAGE” to embrace “ISCHEMIA” and be comfortable with treating ischemia medically.