Background: Transmyocardial revascularization involves the creation of channels in the myocardium with a laser to relieve angina. We compared the safety and efficacy of transmyocardial revascularization performed with a holmium laser with those of medical therapy in patients with refractory class IV angina (according to the criteria of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society). Methods: In a prospective study conducted between March 1996 and July 1998 at 18 centers, 275 patients with medically refractory class IV angina and coronary disease that could not be treated with percutaneous or surgical revascularization were randomly assigned to receive transmyocardial revascularization followed by continued medical therapy (132 patients) or medical therapy alone (143 patients). Results: After one year of follow-up, 76 percent of the patients who had undergone transmyocardial revascularization had improvement in angina (a reduction of two or more classes), as compared with 32 percent of the patients who received medical therapy alone (P<0.001). Kaplan-Meier survival estimates at one year (based on an intention-to-treat analysis) were similar for the patients assigned to undergo transmyocardial revascularization and those assigned to receive medical therapy alone (84 percent and 89 percent, respectively; P=0.23). At one year, the patients in the transmyocardial-revascularization group had a significantly higher rate of survival free of cardiac events (54 percent, vs. 31 percent in the medical-therapy group; P<0.001), a significantly higher rate of freedom from treatment failure (73 percent vs. 47 percent, P<0.001), and a significantly higher rate of freedom from cardiac-related rehospitalization (61 percent rs. 33 percent, P<0.001). Exercise tolerance and quality-of-life scores were also significantly higher in the transmyocardial-revascularization group than in the medical-therapy group (exercise tolerance, 5.0 MET [metabolic equivalent] vs. 3.9 MET; P=0.05; quality-of-life score, 21 vs. 12; P=0.003). However, there were no differences in myocardial perfusion between the two groups, as assessed by thallium scanning. Conclusions: Patients with refractory angina who underwent transmyocardial revascularization and received continued medical therapy, as compared with similar patients who received medical therapy alone, had a significantly better outcome with respect to improvement in angina, survival free of cardiac events, freedom from treatment failure, and freedom from cardiac-related rehospitalization.
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