ABSTRACT: Background. Prevention of distal embolization during percutaneous coronary revascularization may be necessary to reduce post interventional morbidity and mortality. Methods. We employed a newly developed emboli containment and retrieval system in native coronary arteries during percutaneous coronary angioplasty and stenting in 39 selected patients (mean age, 58.9 ± 10.1 years; 11 females) presenting with acute [n = 22; 8 left anterior descending coronary arteries (LAD), 3 left circumflex arteries (LCX), 11 right coronary arteries (RCA)], subacute (n = 7; 2 LAD, 2 LCX, 3 RCA) or chronic (n = 6; 2 LAD, 4 RCA) total or subtotal occlusion of an infarct-related vessel, or with severe stenosis and symptoms of unstable angina (n = 4; 2 LAD, 2 RCA). Protection device-assisted angioplasty with stent implantation was uneventful in all patients with good angiographic results and normal post procedural flow. Intermittent aggravation of anginal pain during inflation of the occlusive balloon (from 2.5 to a maximum of 25 minutes cumulative inflation time) was observed in 19 of the 36 conscious patients (7 with acute, 7 with subacute and 3 with chronic occlusion, and 2 with unstable angina), but caused neither interruption of distal occlusion nor hemodynamic instability. In 31 patients, the aspirates contained visible debris. Histological analysis showed particles up to 12 mm in size, consisting of necrotic core, inflammatory cells, cholesterol debris, and old and fresh thrombi. In 8 patients, the aspirated particles were too small to allow microscopic diagnosis or debris was absent. Conclusions. This preliminary report demonstrates the feasibility of using a protection device in native coronary arteries to prevent distal embolization of particulate matter that is mobilized during percutaneous interventions. To the extent that this material contributes to the mechanisms of distal embolization, no-reflow and infarction, this device may help to reduce such complications. Appropriately designed trials are required to assess the clinical benefit of this system. Recent developments to improve percutaneous reperfusion strategies include transluminal extraction atherectomy,1 excimer laser coronary angioplasty (ELCA),2 angiojet thrombectomy,3 coronary ultrasound thrombolysis (CUT)4 and, among others, aspiration thrombectomy (ICAT).5 In an effort to reduce complications such as distal embolization and no-reflow, a new catheter system (PercuSurge GuardWire™ Temporary Occlusion and Aspiration System; PercuSurge, Inc.) was designed6 and first evaluated in patients during saphenous vein graft (SVG) interventions.7,8 Both reports7,8 have convincingly demonstrated the usefulness against distal embolization during percutaneous interventions. However, the risk of peripheral embolization, no-reflow and myocardial infarction caused by mobilization of particles from obstructive plaques, organized thrombi and/or newly formed atherothrombotic material is not limited to venous grafts; native coronary arteries might be exposed to a similar risk during conventional angioplasty or stenting and these complications might severely affect morbidity and the clinical outcome in these patients as well. The promising results obtained in saphenous vein graft procedures prompted us to evaluate the feasibility and usefulness of this new device in native coronary arteries in preventing peripheral embolization of friable material during coronary interventions. Methods We report our initial experience in the first series of patients that underwent PTCA and stenting utilizing the first generation PercuSurge GuardWire™ protection device in native coronary arteries. Device description and procedures. In brief, and as described elsewhere,6–8 the first generation catheter system consists of a 0.014-inch guidewire with a compliant balloon (two sizes: 3.0–4.0 and 4.0–5.0 mm, respectively) mounted 32 mm proximally of the soft tip (Figure 1). It is supplied with a radiopaque marker to facilitate proper positioning after crossing of the lesion. A detachable inflation adapter activates the special valve sealing system of the wire for inflation (Patient selection. We selected 39 suitable patients (mean age, 58.9 ± 10.1 years, 11 females) for this pilot protocol. Informed consent was obtained from all conscious patients or from their relatives in unconscious patients. Patients were eligible when presenting without severe hemodynamic instability or relevant rhythm disturbances. In all but one patient, the procedure was performed immediately after diagnostic coronary angiography. Ongoing myocardial infarction, old occlusion, long lesions or pretreatment strategies (including failed thrombolysis in 3 patients) were not exclusion criteria since we were primarily interested to test the feasibility and the utility of the device in native coronary arteries. Left ventricular function was assessed either by angiography (n = 21) or by echocardiography (n = 12) obtained within 3 days of the intervention. Patients were included when the following angiographic requirements were met: the guiding catheter (8 Fr) was easy to place, the culprit vessel had a suitable size (>= 3.0 mm) and the lesion was located in the proximal or midportion of the vessel. Patients with main branchings in proximity to the target and relevant tortuosities were regarded as less suitable candidates for this procedure. Patients were categorized as having acute myocardial infarction (onset of symptoms up to 12 hours), subacute myocardial infarction ( 4 days). Patients with unstable angina had persistent anginal episodes despite maximal antianginal therapy and severe stenosis of the culprit lesion, but no evidence of myocardial necrosis. Peri- and postinterventional management. In order to assess the feasibility of the device, we primarily attempted to cross the culprit lesion with the PercuSurge GuardWire™ first. However, there was no restriction to pre-wire the vessel in case the operator decided to do so. In some instances, this was judged to be necessary to ascertain safe placement of the wire distal to the lesion and/or to path a channel for the protection device. Similarly, the decision to predilate a vessel before placing the GuardWire™ or predilate the vessel before stenting was made by the operator based on his experience and his judgement how to perform the safest intervention and to produce the best procedural outcome. Once in place, the position of the GuardWire™ was checked by fluoroscopy and by injection of contrast dye, and the position of the device was adjusted if needed to allow regular PTCA- or stent-balloons to reach the lesion; on the other hand, it was important not to push the GuardWire™ too far distal from the lesion because of the risk of leaving sidebranches unprotected. The distal balloon was then inflated under fluoroscopic control, and contrast media was injected to test completeness of the distal occlusion. All interventions were performed over this wire with the distal balloon inflated; importantly, no more adjustments of the GuardWire™ were done once the PTCA/stenting procedures had started. Following the last aspiration, the distal balloon was deflated. The result was visualized; if additional interventions were needed, they were all performed under distal protection again. The sum of each single distal occlusion time was defined as total occlusion time. Finally, the GuardWire™ was pulled back. Thereafter, a final angiographic control was performed which permitted study of the intervention site, as well as that of occlusion of the device’s balloon in order to assess any damage to the vessel. Moreover, particular attention was paid to the presence of distal embolization manifesting itself as interruption of radiopaque contour or abrupt closure, or generalized diminution of flow (slow- or no-reflow). Glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors were given according to the decision of the operator. A bolus of heparin (150–200 U/kg body weight) was administered prior to intervention in order to achieve an initial activated clotting time (ACT) of > 300 seconds or of 200–250 seconds in the presence of glycoprotein inhibitors, respectively. A bolus of 500 mg of aspirin i.v. was given immediately after stent implantation. Post-procedural management consisted of clopidogrel 300 mg on the day of intervention and 75 mg daily thereafter for one month and concomitant aspirin 100 mg daily as continuous therapy. The sheath was removed after the procedure and the puncture site was closed using the Perclose™ system in all patients. Definitions. The culprit lesion was determined by its anatomical location, its perfusion characteristics according to Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) classification for flow through the infarct-related vessel (Table 1)9 and for collateral flow to the infarct-related vessel (Table 2),10 morphological features and intraluminal thrombus. Intraluminal masses were described as thrombus (apparent or possible thrombus) when contours and mural opacities were rounded or polypoid in shape, and protruded into the lumen. In totally occluded vessels, the abrupt termination with a stump and delayed wash-out of contrast were regarded as recent thrombotic occlusion. Smooth tapering up to terminal sidebranches before sudden interruption of the main vessel and in general, well-developed collateralization in the distal portion was defined as chronic occlusion. When visualized, the severity and length of the obstruction were analyzed qualitatively by comparing the contours of the greatest narrowing to the densely opacified borders before and after the lesion. Statistics. Data are reported as means ± SD. Comparison between groups was performed using the unpaired Student’s t-test (Statview IV; Abacus Concept, Inc., Berkeley, California). A level of p = 0.5 mm; n = 27) or small particles (= 3.0 mm) and the type of lesion, was suitable for this procedure. Accordingly, crossing of the lesion with the device was easy in most instances except in one patient where the intention to pass the lesion with the GuardWire™ first failed. In some instances pre-wiring was helpful, i.e., when the guiding catheter did not offer sufficient back-up. To date, there is no solid proof whether patients do benefit from protection device-assisted percutaneous interventions. The procedure of distal occlusion and aspiration prolongs the interventional time at the expense of faster early patency during unprotected interventions. Intuitively, however, one is tempted to speculate that a reduction or complete prevention of peripheral embolization is a mechanism by which distal flow is better preserved, and thereby may positively affect early and late outcome.11,12 Moreover, it is possible that removal of potentially detrimental vasoactive substances from the culprit lesion or its vicinity, or their release during PTCA/stenting13 may be of advantage, but this aspect needs further study. In none of our patients did we encounter the no-reflow phenomenon when using the protection device and in only two patients did we observe minor peripheral embolizations to the distal portion of unprotected sidebranches. Branching in proximity of a culprit lesion might lead to embolization into major sidebranches once the catheter is placed in the main vessel. This limitation might be overcome by placing a second protection device into the sidebranch; this was safely performed in one patient of this series. Duration of distal occlusion was longer in our study as compared to previously published work in saphenous vein grafts.7,8 Direct stenting, which reduced the duration of the procedure, was not possible in all instances. In particular, long lesions and presence of intracoronary thrombi resulted in longer procedure times as did repeated aspirations. However, anginal symptoms during inflation of the device’s balloon were never intolerable and never caused hemodynamic impairment or rhythm disturbances requiring premature deflation. In this primary series, we were able to demonstrate the feasibility and the safety of the PercuSurge GuardWire™. However, a large-scale trial with clinical endpoints is underway to investigate whether the strategy of aspiration with prevention of peripheral embolization improves outcome and which patients might be the best candidates for this procedure. Currently, there is still some debate as to directly compare percutaneous interventions with and without protection devices; in our opinion, however, and in light of the excellent results achieved so far and the clear body of evidence by the magnitude of the retrieved aspirates, we encourage interventionalists to apply this technique on a large scale. Study limitations. We did not perform quantification or blinded analysis of flow characteristics after the intervention; this was only assessed semiquantitatively since it was the focus of this study to assess the safety and feasibility of the device when used in native coronary arteries. In contrast to published work in saphenous vein grafts, the aspirates were semiquantitatively analyzed only; thus, no precise data are available on particle size of the debris. This will certainly be one of the important aspects of any future study with this protection device in native coronary arteries. Conclusion This preliminary experience with protection device-assisted interventions demonstrates the feasibility and safety of this system when used in native coronary arteries and distal occlusion by the device is well tolerated. The risk of peripheral embolization can be reduced and particles of sometimes remarkable size can be retrieved. Thus, to the extent that this material is involved in contributing to the mechanisms of distal embolization, no-reflow and infarction during percutaneous interventions, this device might contribute to reduce such complications. Acknowledgments. We thank Mrs. Märki and Mrs. Sixt for their help and patience in preparing the photographs.
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