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Interventional cardiology
Assessing the effectiveness of primary angioplasty compared with thrombolysis and its relationship to time delay: a Bayesian evidence synthesis
  1. Christian Asseburg1,
  2. Yolanda Bravo Vergel1,
  3. Stephen Palmer1,
  4. Elisabeth Fenwick2,
  5. Mark de Belder3,
  6. Keith R Abrams4,
  7. Mark Sculpher1
  1. 1
    Centre for Health Economics, University of York, UK
  2. 2
    Public Health and Health Policy, Division of Community Based Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK
  3. 3
    The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, UK
  4. 4
    Centre for Biostatistics and Genetic Epidemiology, Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, UK
  1. Dr M Sculpher, Centre for Health Economics, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK; mjs23{at}


Background: Meta-analyses of trials have shown greater benefits from angioplasty than thrombolysis after an acute myocardial infarction, but the time delay in initiating angioplasty needs to be considered.

Objective: To extend earlier meta-analyses by considering 1- and 6-month outcome data for both forms of reperfusion. To use Bayesian statistical methods to quantify the uncertainty associated with the estimated relationships.

Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2003 was updated. Data on key clinical outcomes and the difference between time-to-balloon and time-to-needle were independently extracted by two researchers. Bayesian statistical methods were used to synthesise evidence despite differences between reported follow-up times and outcomes. Outcomes are presented as absolute probabilities of specific events and odds ratios (ORs; with 95% credible intervals (CrI)) as a function of the additional time delay associated with angioplasty.

Results: 22 studies were included in the meta-analysis, with 3760 and 3758 patients randomised to primary angioplasty and thrombolysis, respectively. The mean (SE) angioplasty-related time delay (over and above time to thrombolysis) was 54.3 (2.2) minutes. For this delay, mean event probabilities were lower for primary angioplasty for all outcomes. Mortality within 1 month was 4.5% after angioplasty and 6.4% after thrombolysis (OR = 0.68 (95% CrI 0.46 to 1.01)). For non-fatal reinfarction, OR = 0.32 (95% CrI 0.20 to 0.51); for non-fatal stroke OR = 0.24 (95% CrI 0.11 to 0.50). For all outcomes, the benefit of angioplasty decreased with longer delay from initiation.

Conclusions: The benefit of primary angioplasty, over thrombolysis, depends on the former’s additional time delay. For delays of 30–90 minutes, angioplasty is superior for 1-month fatal and non-fatal outcomes. For delays of around 90 minutes thrombolysis may be the preferred option as assessed by 6-month mortality; there is considerable uncertainty for longer time delays.

  • acute myocardial infarction
  • primary coronary angioplasty
  • thrombolytics
  • meta-regression

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  • Funding: This study was funded by an unrestricted educational grant from Cordis Ltd, which played no part in the design, execution or dissemination of the research. Mark Sculpher also receives funding via a Career Award in Public Health funded by the NHS Research and Development Programme.

  • Competing interests: Mark Sculpher and Mark de Belder have received research funding and consultancy fees from various manufacturers of medical devices such as coronary stents.

  • Abbreviations:
    acute myocardial infarction
    credibility interval
    odds ratio
    ST elevation myocardial infarction

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