In people who have had a heart attack because of blocked heart arteries insertion of thin metal tubes (stents) were better than using small balloons to open the arteries up again

Arteries can become clogged and narrowed with deposits of fat, cholesterol and other substances. This is called atherosclerosis and can cause heart attack. Two methods to open narrowed or clogged arteries in people who have had a recent heart attack are inserting a deflated small balloon in the artery and expand it to open the vessel (balloon angioplasty) or to insert a thin metal tube or sleeve (stent) into the artery to scaffold the artery open. This review compared these treatments and found both were equally effective at preventing death but using stents was better than balloon angioplasty because fewer arteries needed to be re-cleared and stents prevented more heart attacks than balloon angioplasty.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is no evidence to suggest that primary stenting reduces mortality when compared to balloon angioplasty. Stenting seems to be associated with a reduced risk of reinfarction and target vessel revascularization, but potential confounding due to unbalanced post-interventional antithrombotic/anticoagulant therapies can not be ruled out on basis of this review.

Read the full abstract...

Balloon angioplasty following myocardial infarction (MI) reduces death, non-fatal MI and stroke compared to thrombolytic reperfusion. However up to 50% of patients experience restenosis and 3% to 5% recurrent myocardial infarction. Therefore, primary stenting may offer additional benefits compared to balloon angioplasty in patients with acute myocardial infarction.


To examine whether primary stenting compared to primary balloon angioplasty reduces clinical outcomes in patients with acute myocardial infarction.

Search strategy: 

We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Pascal, Index medicus and The Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (The Cochrane Library) from 1979 to March 2002.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials of primary stenting or balloon angioplasty prior to the invasive procedure; intervention in native coronary arteries within 24 hours after onset of symptoms of myocardial infarction; report of death or reinfarction; and follow-up of at least 1 month. Trials were excluded when randomisation occurred after an invasive procedure and if they exclusively included patients with cardiogenic shock.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two reviewers independently selected and extracted data from identified trials. Outcomes included mortality, reinfarction, coronary artery bypass grafting, target vessel revascularization, need for vascular repair or blood transfusion. Peto odds ratios were calculated. To explore the stability of the overall treatment effect various sensitivity analyses were performed.

Main results: 

We included nine trials of 4433 participants. Odds ratios for mortality after stenting compared to balloon angioplasty at 30 days, 6 and 12 months were 1.16 (95% CI 0.78 to 1.73), 1.27 (95% CI 0.89 to 1.83), and 1.06 (95% CI 0.77 to 1.45). At 30 days, 6 and 12 months odds ratios for reinfarction after stenting compared to balloon angioplasty were 0.52 (95% CI 0.31 to 0.87), 0.67 (95% CI 0.45 to 1.00), and 0.67 (95% CI 0.45-0.98) and odds ratio for target vessel revascularization after stenting compared to balloon angioplasty were 0.45 (95%CI 0.34 to 0.60), 0.42 (95% CI 0.35 to 0.51), and 0.47 (95% CI 0.38 to 0.57). The odds ratio for post-interventional bleeding complications after stenting compared to balloon angioplasty was 1.34 (95% CI 0.95 to 1.88; test of heterogeneity p > 0.1).