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Balancing the risks of stent thrombosis and major bleeding during primary percutaneous coronary intervention

Antonio Gutierrez, Deepak L. Bhatt
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehu223 2448-2451 First published online: 26 May 2014

This editorial refers to ‘Bivalirudin is superior to heparins alone with bailout GPIIb/IIIa Inhibitors in patients with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction transported emergently for primary percutaneous coronary intervention: a pre-specified analysis from the EUROMAX trial’, by U. Zeymer et al., on page 2460.

Two feared peri-procedural complications of primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) are stent thrombosis (ST) and major bleeding. Although rare, ST is associated with high rates of myocardial infarction and death.1 Potent antithrombotic therapy around the time of PCI markedly reduces the risk of ST, but increases bleeding hazard (Figure 1). Historically, the anticoagulant of choice for PCI has been unfractionated heparin (UFH). Glycoprotein inhibitors (GPI) added to heparin significantly reduce peri-procedural ischaemic complications, but increase major bleeding and the need for transfusions. There has been a consistent association between major bleeding and increased mortality.2 In PCI for elective indications and across the spectrum of acute coronary syndrome (ACS), the direct thrombin inhibitor bivalirudin is non-inferior to heparin plus GPI with respect to overall ischaemic complications, but significantly decreases major bleeding.

Figure 1

Balancing reductions in stent thrombosis with increases in major bleeding. PCI, percutaneous coronary intervention.

In this issue of European Heart Journal, an important pre-specified analysis by Zeymer et al. uses the European Ambulance Acute Coronary Syndrome Angiography (EUROMAX) study population to compare patients receiving bivalirudin with patients receiving heparins [UFH or low-molecular weight heparin (LMWH)] with routine GPI use (defined as initiation before or during coronary angiography) and patients receiving heparins with only bailout GPI use (defined as initiation after the start of PCI). This study expands on the original EUROMAX findings by reporting a significant difference in the composite primary endpoint of death or major bleeding that favours bivalirudin over heparins with routine GPI use and heparins with bailout GPI use (5.1 vs. …

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