SITCH Results Results Favor CABG In Heart Failure Patients

Contact: Amanda Jekowsky,, 202-731-3069

No Advantage to Surgery in Primary Analysis, but a Closer Look Suggests More

New Orleans, LA – When it comes to overall survival, patients with heart failure caused by clogged coronary arteries may do just as well with medication alone as when bypass surgery is added to the treatment plan, according to research presented today at the American College of Cardiology’s 60th Annual Scientific Session. ACC.11 is the premier cardiovascular medical meeting, bringing together cardiologists and cardiovascular specialists to further advances in cardiovascular medicine.
Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) does, however, significantly reduce the risk of death specifically from heart disease, as well as the combined risk of death or hospitalization, the Surgical Treatment of Ischemic Heart Failure (STICH) trial found.

“We were unable to show a significant benefit for CABG in our primary analysis, but if you dive deeper, the data are much more supportive of bypass surgery,” said Eric J. Velazquez, M.D., an associate professor of medicine and director of both the cardiac diagnostic unit and echocardiography laboratories at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC. “This information fills an important gap in how we should evaluate the opportunity for CABG in these patients.”

STICH is the largest randomized, controlled study ever to compare CABG plus the best possible medical therapy to aggressive medical therapy alone in patients with coronary artery disease and heart failure.

Some six million people in the United States have heart failure. In about two-thirds of those cases, the underlying cause is clogged coronary arteries, which deprive the heart muscle of enough blood and oxygen and impair its ability to pump fluids to the rest of the body. In bypass surgery, healthy arteries and veins are used to re-route blood around the blockages, in hopes of restoring heart function. Until now it has been unclear whether the risks of bypass surgery were worth taking, given recent life-saving advances in medical therapy.

For the study, researchers at 99 medical centers in 22 countries recruited patients with heart failure caused by coronary artery disease or a previous heart attack, randomly assigning 602 to ideal medical therapy alone and 610 to CABG plus ideal medical therapy. After an average of nearly five years of follow-up, they found that bypass surgery reduced the risk of death from any cause by 14 percent when compared to medical therapy. However, the finding was not statistically significant.

Bypass surgery also reduced the risk of cardiovascular death by 19 percent and the combined risk of death from any cause plus hospitalization for heart disease by 26 percent. Both findings were statistically significant (p=0.05 and p<0.001, respectively).

Fifty-five patients who were assigned to the surgery group never actually had the procedure, whereas 100 who were assigned to medical therapy eventually had CABG. When researchers analyzed the data only on patients who had their assigned treatment, they found that bypass surgery reduced the risk of death from any cause by 25 percent (p=0.005). Similarly, when they analyzed the data according to the treatment patients actually had, including the “crossovers” into the opposite group, they found that bypass surgery reduced the risk of death from any cause by 30 to 50 percent.

Researchers did note that bypass surgery had a higher upfront risk than medical treatment alone. In fact, it was only after two years that survival was better with bypass surgery.

“Although the totality of information supports CABG, there is an early hazard,” Velazquez said. “The fairest approach is to evaluate each patient’s prognosis. If they have a low likelihood of living two years or don’t want to take the risk of having surgery, medical therapy may be the better option.”

STICH Viability

A separate STICH substudy evaluated whether imaging could be used to identify which patients are likely to benefit from bypass surgery. Researchers recruited a total of 601 patients to have one of two types of imaging tests: a nuclear perfusion scan or dobutamine echocardiography. These tests use different methods to evaluate poorly functioning heart tissue and determine if it is still alive. Viable tissue, as it is called, can often recover function once it has an adequate blood supply, while irreversibly damaged tissue cannot.

After nearly five years of follow-up, researchers found no relationship between the results of viability imaging and the effectiveness of bypass surgery. Imaging did provide valuable information on the likelihood of long-term survival, however. Overall, patients with living heart tissue were 40 percent less likely to die during follow-up when compared to patients with irreversible heart damage.

“Assessing myocardial viability is useful in identifying the risk of patients and getting information about prognosis,” said Robert O. Bonow, M.D., a professor of medicine and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Innovation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “But when weighing results of viability testing versus other characteristics, it’s not helpful in identifying which patients will benefit from surgery.”

The STICH trial and STICH Viability substudy were funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Velazquez and Bonow have no potential conflicts of interest to report.

Drs. Velazquez and Bonow will be available to the media on Monday, April 4 at 9:45 a.m. CDT in Room 338/339.
Dr. Velazquez will present the study “Medical Therapy With or Without Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery in Patients with Ischemic Cardiomyopathy: Results of the Surgical Treatment of Ischemic Heart Failure Trial” and Dr. Bonow will present the study “Influence of Myocardial Viability on Outcome of Patients with Coronary Artery Disease and Left Ventricular Dysfunction Undergoing Medical Therapy With and Without Surgical Revascularization: Results of the Surgical Treatment for Ischemic Heart Failure Trial” on Monday, April 4 at 8:00 a.m. CDT in the Joint Main Tent: La Nouvelle.

The American College of Cardiology ( represents the majority of board certified cardiovascular care professionals through education, research, promotion, development and application of standards and guidelines – and to influence health care policy. ACC.11 is the largest cardiovascular meeting, bringing together cardiologists and cardiovascular specialists to share the newest discoveries in treatment and prevention, while helping the ACC achieve its mission to address and improve issues in cardiovascular medicine.

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