Cardiac Imaging

A CT-First Approach to CAD

Discharge Trial Coronary CT

A major new study from the DISCHARGE Trial Group showed that coronary CT is as effective as invasive coronary angiography (ICA) for the management of patients with obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD), potentially challenging current guidelines. 

Background – Invasive coronary angiography (ICA) is the reference standard for diagnosing and managing CAD and it’s performed over 3.5 million times each year in the European Union alone (many more millions globally). However, over 60% of these exams prove negative and theoretically could have been diagnosed via non-invasive CT exams.

The Study – The randomized, multi-center trial (26 sites, 16 EU countries) used CT or ICA as the initial diagnostic and treatment guidance exam for 3,523 patients with stable chest pain and intermediate probability of obstructive CAD (1,808 patients w/ CT). By the end of the study’s 3.5-year follow-up period, patients in the CT group had: 

  • A lower rate of major adverse cardiovascular events (2.1% vs. 3% w/ ICA)
  • A far lower major procedure-related complication rate (0.5% vs. 1.9% w/ ICA)
  • A slightly higher rate of reported angina (8.8% vs. 7.5% w/ ICA)

The Takeaway

These results suggest that following a CT-first strategy for evaluating patients with a medium risk of CAD produces similar longer-term outcomes as the current ICA-first strategy (maybe even better outcomes), while significantly reducing major complications and unnecessary cath lab procedures.

That’s pretty compelling and could actually influence procedural changes, given the size / credibility of the DISCHARGE Trial Group and the fact that CT was already proposed in the Chest Pain Guidelines as a gatekeeper for invasive coronary angiography.

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-- The Imaging Wire team