Bilateral versus single internal thoracic coronary artery bypass grafting: the ART RCT
Flather M., Dimagli A., Benedetto U., Lees B., Gray A., Gerry S., Naik A., Cook J., Gaudino M., Little M., Taggart DP.
Background There is debate whether the use of more arterial grafts during coronary artery bypass graft surgery provides advantages to the standard operation using the left internal thoracic artery plus vein grafts. We review data from the Arterial Revascularisation Trial to determine whether there is support for the multiple arterial graft hypothesis. Methods Patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft for clinical reasons and who provided written informed consent were randomised to standard coronary artery bypass graft using the single internal thoracic artery or use of bilateral internal thoracic arteries. Additional vein grafts could be used. The primary outcome was all-cause mortality at 10 years and exploratory analyses were carried out to test the multiple arterial graft hypothesis. Results A total of 3102 patients were enrolled (1548 bilateral internal thoracic artery and 1554 single internal thoracic artery). Follow-up to 10 years for vital status was 98% complete. In the bilateral group, 14% of patients received a single internal thoracic artery only and use of radial artery grafts occurred in about 20% of patients in both groups. Aspirin was used in 81% of the patients, beta-blockers in 74%, statins in 90% and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers in 73%. At 10 years, death rates were 20.3% and 21.2% in the bilateral internal thoracic artery and single internal thoracic artery groups, respectively (hazard ratio 0.96, 95% confidence intervals 0.82 to 1.12; p = 0.62) and composite of all-cause mortality, myocardial infarction or stroke 24.9% and 27.3%, respectively (hazard ratio 0.90, 95% confidence interval 0.79 to 1.03; p = 0.12). Exploratory analyses using the ‘as-treated’ approach indicate that outcomes were better in patients who received multiple arterial grafts (adding the right internal thoracic and/or radial arteries) compared with a single arterial graft. This effect appeared to be greater in patients with diabetes and those aged 70 years or less. Use of total arterial grafting without vein grafts may provide the best outcomes. Limitations The elevated cross-over rate between bilateral internal thoracic artery and single internal thoracic artery and the non-randomised use of radial artery grafts may have contributed to a loss of power to detect a difference in mortality between the two groups. Moreover, secondary analyses are prone to bias as they compare non-randomised groups. Conclusions The Arterial Revascularisation Trial is one of the largest long-term studies in cardiac surgery. The primary analysis did not show a mortality benefit for bilateral internal thoracic artery at 10 years, perhaps due to high crossover rates in the bilateral internal thoracic artery group and concomitant use of the radial artery. Secondary analyses suggest a mortality benefit for patients receiving multiple arterial grafts compared with single arterial graft with possible greater effects in patients with diabetes and separately in patients aged 70 years or above. The trial will follow patients to 15 years and the continuing Randomized Comparison of the Clinical Outcome of Single versus Multiple Arterial Grafts trial will further test the multiple arterial graft hypothesis. Trial registration This trial is registered as ISRCTN46552265. Funding This project was funded by the British Heart Foundation, the UK. Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme and will be published in full in Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation; Vol. 10, No. 7. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.