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 (Crl)) 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% Crl 0.46 to 1.01)). For non-fatal reinfarction, OR = 0.32 ( 95% Crl 0.20 to 0.51); for non-fatal stroke OR = 0.24 ( 95% Crl 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
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