Purpose: To assess the data that support the use of coronary angiography and angioplasty after acute myocardial infarction, that identify the risks of these procedures, and that analyze their use and costs.
Data Sources: English-language articles published between 1970 and June 1995 identified through a search of the MEDLINE database.
Study Selection: Studies that contained information about benefits, risks, use, and costs of coronary angiography and angioplasty after acute myocardial infarction.
Data Extraction: Descriptive and analytic data from each study were collected.
Data Synthesis: The outcome for patients who have complications of myocardial infarction (such as shock) is poor. Such patients usually undergo angiography, although the evidence that supports this practice is weak. Preliminary data suggest that patients who immediately have angiography and angioplasty after acute myocardial infarction have better outcomes than do patients who receive thrombolytic therapy with angioplasty only for specific indications in experienced centers. After the acute phase of myocardial infarction, patients who have noninvasive evidence of persistent or recurrent ischemia are believed to benefit from angiography. In the remaining patients, however, angiography after myocardial infarction has not been shown to be beneficial. Coronary angiography is done in 30% to 81% of patients after acute myocardial infarction in different settings and regions; for many of these patients, the benefit is questionable. Better outcomes are not always associated with more frequent use of the procedure. In the United States, catheterizations after myocardial infarction cost approximately $1 billion per year.
Conclusions: Although many patients benefit from angiography and angioplasty after myocardial infarction, others probably do not. Substantial resources are at stake.