Management Strategies for a Better Outcome in Unstable Coronary Artery Disease
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Unstable coronary artery disease is a term encompassing both unstable angina and non-Q-wave (non-ST-segment elevation) myocardial infarction. Patients with these conditions are at risk of early progression to acute myocardial infarction and death. Thus, management of these conditions must aim to reduce long-term mortality and morbidity. Risk stratification is crucial for the identification of patients whose risk of early progression is high; they may require coronary angiography and (if suitable) either percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty or coronary artery bypass surgery. No single variable can accurately predict risk, but considerable data are emerging to show that biochemical markers of myocardial injury, such as troponin-T and troponin-I, are valuable in combination with electrocardiographic findings and clinical features. Routine early invasive procedures (coronary angiography with or without revascularization) have not yet been shown to have any significant advantage over conservative regimens for the majority of patients. Antiplatelet, anticoagulant, and anti-ischemic agents remain the mainstay of treatment in the acute phase. New agents, such as glycoprotein IIb/IIIa receptor inhibitors and low-molecular-weight heparins, as well as antithrombins and Factor Xa inhibitors add to the treatments currently available. Thrombolytic agents are contraindicated in the absence of ST-segment elevation. After clinical stabilization, ongoing assessment should include exercise testing for all patients who are able; other imaging techniques should be used for patients unable to exercise. A profile indicating a high risk of future events is an indication for elective angiography and consideration for revascularization.
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