A clot-busting drug that is standard treatment for heart attacks is less effective than a new technique in which surgeons put a small mesh tube in an artery and give the patient "super aspirin," a study indicates.
The new method worked better because it saved more of the heart, doctors said, but it may not be practical in the United States because few hospitals are equipped to insert the tube quickly.
In the study, published in today's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors at the Deutsches Herzzentrum (German Heart Center) found that after six months, 8.5 percent of the patients given the two-part treatment had died or had a stroke or another heart attack.
That compared to 23.2 percent of those who got the clot-buster ATP, Dr. Albert Schoemig wrote.
The new treatment limited damage to an average of 14.3 percent of the left ventricle, the muscular chamber that pumps blood out to the body, compared with 19.4 percent damage in ATP-treated hearts.
With only 140 patients, the study is small, but it was the first ever comparing the treatments, and the results were "very provocative," said Dr. Eric Topol of The Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
"What it brings up now is whether we have reached a new standard of care," he said. More and larger trials are needed, he said.