Balancing Potency of Platelet Inhibition with Bleeding Risk in the Early Treatment of Acute Coronary Syndrome
Objective: To review available evidence and examine issues surrounding the use of advanced antiplatelet therapy in an effort to provide a practical guide for emergency physicians caring for patients with acute coronary syndromes (ACS).
Data Sources: American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) 2007 guidelines for the management of patients with unstable angina (UA) and non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI), AHA/ACC 2007 focused update for the management of patients with STEMI, selected clinical articles identified through the PubMed database (1965-February 2008), and manual searches for relevant articles identified from those retrieved.
Study Selection: English-language controlled studies and randomized clinical trials that assessed the efficacy and safety of antiplatelet therapy in treating patients with all ACS manifestations.
Data Extraction and Synthesis: Clinical data, including treatment regimens and patient demographics and outcomes, were extracted and critically analyzed from the selected studies and clinical trials. Pertinent data from relevant patient registries were also evaluated to assess current clinical practice.
Conclusions: As platelet activation and aggregation are central to ACS pathology, antiplatelet agents are critical to early treatment. A widely accepted first-line treatment is aspirin, which acts to decrease platelet activation via inhibition of thromboxane A2 synthesis. Thienopyridines, which inhibit ADP-induced platelet activation, and glycoprotein (GP) receptor antagonists, which bind to platelet GP IIb/IIIa receptors and hinder their role in platelet aggregation and thrombus formation, provide complementary mechanisms of platelet inhibition and are often employed in combination with aspirin. While the higher levels of platelet inhibition that accompany combination therapy improve protection against ischemic and peri-procedural events, the risk of bleeding is also increased. Thus, the challenge in choosing appropriate therapy in the emergency department lies in balancing the need for potent platelet inhibition with the potential for increased risk of bleeding and future interventions the patient is likely to receive during the index hospitalization.