Is There Still a Role for Fibrinolysis in ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction?

  • C. El Khoury
  • F. Sibellas
  • E. BonnefoyEmail author
Coronary Artery Disease (PG Steg, Section Editor)

Opinion statement

Fibrinolysis had long been the reference treatment in patients with ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI). It was associated with a large reduction in mortality as compared with delayed or no reperfusion in patients managed early, within the first 2 hours from the onset of symptoms. Fibrinolysis also had well-known potential complications: cerebral haemorrhage, especially in patients beyond 75 years, and reinfarction. Primary percutaneous intervention (PCI) has overcome most of these limitations, but at a price: PCI-related delays that can reduce the expected benefit of primary PCI compared with fibrinolysis. That primary PCI is today the treatment of choice in patients with STEMI is no longer discussed. However, fibrinolysis should still maintain a role in the management of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) for three reasons. First, fibrinolysis is no longer a stand-alone treatment. Modern fibrinolytic strategies combine immediate fibrinolysis, loading dose of thienopyridines, and transfer to a PCI hospital for rescue or early PCI within 24 hours. These strategies capitalize on the hub-and-spoke networks that have, or should have, been built everywhere to implement primary PCI. The overall clinical results of these modern fibrinolytic strategies are now similar to those of primary PCI. Second, a substantial number of patients cannot be managed with primary PCI within the reasonable time thresholds set by the guidelines. In the case of long PCI-related delays, patients will benefit from fibrinolysis before or during transfer to a PCI hospital. Third, modern fibrinolytic strategies—immediate fibrinolysis followed by rescue or early PCI—may even offer the best results of all in a subset of patients. Patients of less than 75 years, managed within the first 2 hours and who cannot have immediate PCI, will fare better with a modern fibrinolytic strategy than with primary PCI. Guidelines advocate regional networks between hospitals with and without PCI capabilities, an efficient ambulance service and standardization of AMI management through shared protocols. These regional logistics of care are essential to take full advantage of fibrinolysis strategies. In order to check that these strategies are correctly applied, networks need ongoing registries, as well as benchmarking and quality improvement initiatives.


Acute myocardial infarction Thrombolysis Fibrinolysis Networks Guidelines Streptokinase Tenecteplase Reteplase Alteplase Pharmaco-invasive angioplasty Rescue angioplasty Facilitated angioplasty Reperfusion delays STEMI 



The authors are grateful to Dr Mikhail Altman for his help in editing the manuscript.


C. El Khoury: none; F. Sibellas: none; E. Bonnefoy: Payment for development of education presentations and has had travel/accommodation expenses covered by Boehringer Ingelheim

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Intensive and Coronary Care UnitCardio-Vascular University HospitalLyonFrance

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