BACKGROUND - The purpose of this study was to describe the long-term event-free survival patterns of patients with significant coronary artery disease treated medically versus patterns of those treated surgically and to evaluate the factors associated with improved event-free survival.
METHODS AND RESULTS - We studied the results of 5,824 patients undergoing medical and surgical therapy for ischemic heart disease from 1969 to 1984, with follow-up to 1991. Events considered for this evaluation were nonfatal myocardial infarction or cardiovascular death. The Cox proportional hazards model was used to determine factors differentially affecting surgical event-free survival. The survival benefits previously reported for bypass surgery in this population were largely preserved when event-free survival was examined. The two factors associated with significant event-free survival benefits for surgically treated patients were more severe coronary artery disease and a more recent surgery data. Patients with more severe coronary obstruction had a greater relative improvement with surgery in event-free survival than did patients with less severe anatomic disease. Event-free survival with surgery progressively improved over the period of the study and, by 1984, was significantly better than medical therapy for most patient subgroups. Patients with poor prognosis because of risk factors such as older age, severe angina, or left ventricular dysfunction had a risk reduction with surgery proportional to their overall risk under medical therapy.
CONCLUSIONS - Higher-risk patients with more severe disease (due to either coronary disease or other risk factors and age) should be considered for coronary revascularization because it is in these patients that coronary artery bypass graft surgery has the greatest impact in reducing future cardiovascular events.