No Benefit Found For Exercise Echocardiography In Asymptomatic Patients Following CABG Or PCI 1

Routine exercise echocardiography in asymptomatic patients after revascularization does not lead to better outcomes, according to a new study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. Although guidelines generally discourage the practice, post-revascularization stress tests are still commonly performed.

Serge Harb and colleagues performed exercise echocardiography on 2,105 patients following CABG surgery or PCI and followed them for a mean of 5.7 years. 13% of the subjects were found to have ischemia. One-third of these underwent repeat revascularization. Nearly half (49%) of the patients without ischemia on the initial test underwent further exercise testing. Overall, 17% of patients in the study underwent repeat revascularization. However, revascularization had no significant impact on mortality.

Mortality was higher in patients who had ischemia at any time than in patients with no ischemia (8% versus 4.1%, p=0.03). However, the authors reported that “clinical and stress testing findings, but not echocardiographic features, were associated with both all-cause and cardiac mortality.” This finding, according to the authors, suggests “that risk evaluation could be obtained from a standard exercise test rather than exercise echocardiography.”

The authors write that “careful consideration is warranted before the screening of asymptomatic patients is considered appropriate at any stage after revascularization.”

In an accompanying commentary, Mark Eisenberg writes that the study makes “a compelling argument that routine periodic stress testing in asymptomatic patients following coronary revascularization is of little clinical benefit.”

Here is the press release from Archives:

Study Examines Exercise Testing in Asymptomatic Patients After Coronary Revascularization

CHICAGO – Asymptomatic patients who undergo treadmill exercise echocardiography (ExE) after coronary revascularization may be identified as being at high risk but those patients do not appear to have more favorable outcomes with repeated revascularization, according to a report published Online First byArchives of Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication. The article is part of the journal’s Less is More series.

Cardiac events and recurrent ischemia (a temporary shortage of oxygen caused by impaired blood flow; identified in the study as new or worsening cardiac wall motion abnormality shown on the echocardiogram) are common after revascularization procedures, both percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) and coronary bypass graft surgery (CABG).

Guidelines of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association recommend evaluation with stress imaging tests, including ExE, in symptomatic patients after revascularization, but evaluating asymptomatic patients “is more controversial,” the authors note in the study background.

“Testing is considered inappropriate early after PCI (<2 years) and CABG (<5 years), but the justification for these cutoffs is ill defined,” the study notes.

Serge C. Harb, M.D., and colleagues at the Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute, Ohio, examined the effectiveness of testing asymptomatic patients early and late postrevascularization. Their observational study was conducted with data from asymptomatic patients with a history of PCI or CABG who were referred for ExE at the Cleveland Clinic from January 2000 through November 2010.

ExE was performed in 2,105 asymptomatic patients (average age 64; 310 were women; 845 [40 percent] had a history of myocardial infarction [heart attack]; 1,143 [54 percent] had undergone PCI and 962 [46 percent] had undergone CABG an average of 4.1 years before the ExE).

Ischemia was detected in 262 patients and 88 of them underwent repeated revascularization. A total of 97 patients died over an average followup period of 5.7 years, and death was associated with ischemia in groups tested both early (less than two years after PCI or less than five years after CABG) and late (two or more years after PCI, or five or more years after CABG), according to the study results. The main predictor of outcome appeared to be exercise capacity, “suggesting that risk evaluation could be obtained from a standard exercise test rather than exercise echocardiography,” the authors note.

“In conclusion, the results of this study suggest that asymptomatic patients who undergo treadmill ExE after coronary revascularization may be identified as being at high risk but do not seem to have more favorable outcomes with RVs [repeated revascularization],” the authors conclude. “Given the very large population of post-PCI and post-CABG patients, careful consideration is warranted before the screening of asymptomatic patients is considered appropriate at any stage after revascularization.”

(Arch Intern Med. Published online May 14, 2012. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.1355)

Invited Commentary: Is Routine Stress Testing Worth the Effort in Asymptomatic Patients After Coronary Revascularization?

In an invited commentary, Mark J. Eisenberg, M.D., M.P.H., of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, writes: “A strategy of routine periodic stress testing in asymptomatic patients following coronary revascularization is associated with high rates of resource utilization and high costs. Most positive test results using such a strategy will be false-positives and will lead to further testing and additional angiographic procedures.”

Eisenberg continues: “Despite the fact that current evidence discourages the use of routine testing, this strategy is still commonly observed in practice. Thus, the time has arrived for a large, well-controlled trial randomizing asymptomatic patients postrevascularization to routine periodic stress testing vs. conservative management.”

“Until well-supported data become available supporting such a strategy, routine testing in asymptomatic patients is probably not worth the effort,” Eisenberg concludes.

(Arch Intern Med. Published online May 14, 2012. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.1910)

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One comment

  1. I think this is one of those studies that total misses the point. The reason that asymptomatic patients who do a stress test are likely to have bad outcomes is that they are not building up to the stress test. I had a very serious heart operation to remove a mixoma and had two artery bypasses. I have been symptom free, exercise hard and my rehab therapist has asked me if I would consider marathon or decathlon training.

    I believe you are seeing patients who don’t exercise, jumping on a treadmill and exercise hard. I know a number of heart patients who have ignored their doctor’s admonitions about hard exercise and yet live symptom free and have their health back. I don’t take Statins, but have a brilliant lipid panel.

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