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November 11, 1992

Results of a Second-Opinion Trial Among Patients Recommended for Coronary Angiography

Author Affiliations

From the Lown Cardiovascular Center, Brookline, Mass; Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass; and Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass.

JAMA. 1992;268(18):2537-2540. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490180069028

Objective.  —To assess the feasibility of carrying out a second-opinion trial for patients urged to undergo coronary angiography and to assess the long-range outcome of such patients denied that procedure, and the criteria evolved for reaching such a conclusion.

Design.  —A case series of patients referred for a second opinion as to the need for coronary angiography. Patients were followed up by questionnaire, telephone call, and center visits.

Setting.  —Cardiovascular referral center and teaching hospital in Boston, Mass.

Patients.  —One hundred seventy-one patients with coronary artery disease (144 men, average age 60 years; range, 36 to 88 years). Three patients became unavailable for follow-up during a mean of 46.5 months.

Outcome Measures.  —Concordant-discordant outcome as to the second opinion, cardiac events, invasive interventions, quality of life questionnaire, and level of symptoms.

Results.  —One hundred thirty-four (80%) of the 168 patients were judged not to require angiography; it was recommended in six. In 28 (16%) recommendation was deferred pending further studies. At a mean follow-up of 46.5 months among the 168 patients, there were seven cardiac deaths (annualized cardiac mortality of 1.1%); 19 patients experienced a new myocardial infarction (2.7% annualized rate), while 27 patients (4.3%) were judged to have developed unstable angina. Twenty-six patients (15.4%) ultimately underwent either coronary bypass or angioplasty.

Conclusions.  —In a large fraction of medically stable patients with coronary disease who are urged to undergo coronary angiography, the procedure can be safely deferred. While there may be a limitation in terms of generalizing this experience to all patients with coronary disease, we reasonably conclude that an estimated 50% of coronary angiography currently being undertaken in the United States is unnecessary, or at least could be postponed.(JAMA. 1992;268:2537-2540)