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Almanac 2011: acute coronary syndromes. The national society journals present selected research that has driven recent advances in clinical cardiology
  1. Charles J Knight,
  2. Adam D Timmis
  1. Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry London Chest Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Charles J Knight, NIHR Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit, London Chest Hospital, Bonner Road, London E2 9JX, UK; Charles.Knight{at}bartsandthelondon.nhs.uk

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Summary

This overview highlights some recent advances in the epidemiology, diagnosis, risk stratification and treatment of acute coronary syndromes. The sheer volume of new studies reflects the robust state of global cardiovascular research but the focus here is on findings that are of most interest to the practising cardiologist.

Incidence and mortality rates for myocardial infarction are in decline, probably owing to a combination of lifestyle changes, particularly smoking cessation, and improved pharmacological and interventional treatment. Troponins remain central for diagnosis and new high-sensitivity assays are further lowering detection thresholds and improving outcomes. The incremental diagnostic value of other circulating biomarkers remains unclear and for risk stratification simple clinical algorithms such as the GRACE score have proved more useful.

Primary PCI with minimal treatment delay is the most effective reperfusion strategy in ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). Radial access is associated with less bleeding than with the femoral approach, but outcomes appear similar. Manual thrombectomy limits distal embolisation and infarct size while drug-eluting stents reduce the need for further revascularisation procedures. Non-culprit disease is best dealt with electively as a staged procedure after primary PCI has been completed. The development of antithrombotic and antiplatelet regimens for primary PCI continues to evolve, with new indications for fondaparinux and bivalirudin as well as small-molecule glycoprotein (GP)IIb/IIIa inhibitors. If timely primary PCI is unavailable, fibrinolytic treatment remains an option but a strategy of early angiographic assessment is recommended for all patients.

Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) is now the dominant phenotype and outcomes after the acute phase are significantly worse than for STEMI. Many patients with NSTEMI remain undertreated and there is a large body of recent work seeking to define the most effective antithrombotic and antiplatelet regimens for this group of patients. The benefits of early invasive treatment for most patients are …

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