OBJECTIVE: To examine the incidence and outcome of cardiac catheter complications related to left main coronary artery disease or damage using the CECCC (Confidential Enquiry into Cardiac Catheter Complications) database. SETTING: Coordinating centre for national database. DESIGN: Retrospective analysis of reports to a national multicentre database for cardiac catheter complications. Complications involving the left main coronary artery were flagged at entry. Where necessary additional information was sought from participating centres. 112,921 procedures were registered, 12,849 of which were coronary angioplasties and the remainder diagnostic studies. RESULTS: The total number of cases for which complications were recorded was 993 (0.88%). In 61 (6.14%) of the 993 cases complications were associated with left main coronary disease or damage. In 57 (93%) of these 61 cases complications were major, necessitating resuscitation or immediate coronary bypass grafting. Ten patients (16%) died in the catheter laboratory, a further 9 (15%) within 24 hours, and a total of 23 patients (38%) died within one month of the procedure. Left main stem related complications account for 17% of total mortality in the CECCC database. Urgent coronary bypass grafting was attempted in 42 patients, of whom 31 were alive at one month. In all of the six reported PTCA-related complications the cause was traumatic damage to the left main coronary artery. Operators of all grades of seniority experienced complications in similar proportions. CONCLUSIONS: The risk of a complication relating to the left main stem is relatively low, but when such complications occur they tend to be life-threatening and contribute a fifth of total catheter-related mortality. In the absence of a widely available non-invasive investigation with good predictive value for left main stem disease, the best safeguard is careful technique. Patients who do develop complications should have emergency coronary bypass grafting.
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