Stable ischemic heart disease: re-appraisal of coronary revascularization criteria in the light of contemporary evidence

Enrico Orsini, Stefano Nistri, Giovanni Battista Zito


The term “stable ischemic heart disease” includes a variety of clinical and pathophysiological situations resulting in different presentation modalities, often with complex referral patterns, and with multiple potential therapeutical options. Multifactorial pathogenesis and multiform expressivity are poorly captured by the traditional vision of ischemic heart disease (IHD) as the clogged pipes disease. The availability of different technologies for studying patients with symptoms suggestive of IHD, has shed a new light on the pathophysiology of the disease, but has also allowed appropriate follow-up of patients allocated to different therapeutical options. Though coronary revascularization has been one primary treatment option for obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD), the evidence for its efficacy in patients without acute presentation is far from optimal. A number of studies and meta-analyses strongly support the need for a personalized and optimized medical approach (including functional assessment and therapy) before the tailored option of revascularization in selected patients, in order to optimize its effects on symptoms and outcome. Most recent data have expanded the need for a more personalised approach to this complex situation, which should be patient-centered and not focused on technologies. In this review, we discuss the major pathophysiological factors and the most recent clinical data and guidelines suggestions, needed for a critical re-appraisal of the clinical decision-making to perform revascularization in patients with stable IHD. Moreover we aimed at suggesting the potential role for future studies to fill the existing knowledge gaps but also to counteract a reductive, hydraulic view of chronic IHD, which seems to be still alive and kicking, both in clinical and research communities, despite multiple evidences and recommendations.