Cardiac CT Provides Reliable, Noninvasive Alternative to Angiography in Diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease


Data from the DISCHARGE trial provides evidence demonstrating computed tomography could be a safe alternative to catheterization in patients with stable chest pain and suspected CAD.

Marc Dewey, MD

Marc Dewey, MD

Results of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrate cardiac computed tomography (CT) could provide a safe alternative to catheterization in patients with suspected coronary artery disease (CAD).

Aimed at assessing whether cardiac CT could provide a noninvasive alternative to coronary angiography, results of the DISCHARGE trial indicate CT-based examination offered a safe alternative to catherization and could help reduce major procedure-related complications.

“The trial confirmed that the CT-based examination is safe in patients with stable chest pain and suspected coronary artery disease,” said Marc Dewey, MD, head of the Department of Radiology on Campus Charité Mitte, in a statement. “Among the patients referred for cardiac catheterization and included in this trial, the risk of major cardiovascular events was found to be similar in both the CT and catheterization groups, occurring in 2.1% and 3.0% of patients, respectively. The incidence of major, procedure-related complications was found to be lower in patients managed with an initial CT strategy.”

The DISCHARGE trial was designed as a multicenter, pragmatic, randomized superiority trial comparing CT with invasive coronary angiography as initial diagnostic imaging strategies for guiding the treatment of patients with stable chest pain. Conducted across 26 European medical centers from October 3, 2015, to April 12, 2019, the study enrolled 3667 patients who were randomized in a 1:1 ratio to undergo CT or invasive coronary angiography. Of the 3667 enrolled, 3561 were included in a modified intention-to-treat analysis.

To be considered eligible for the study, patients needed to be at least 30 years of age and referred for invasive coronary angiography at a study site because of stable chest pain with an intermediate pretest probability of obstructive CAD. Investigators noted a web-based system was used to ensure concealment of group assignments after eligibility criteria had been checked.

As part of the study protocol, it was recommended that patients in either arm without obstructive CAD be discharged from the trial center back to their referring physician for further treatment while those with obstructive CAD were treated according to guidelines.

The primary outcome of interest for the study was incidence of major adverse cardiovascular events, which was a composite of cardiovascular death, nonfatal MI, or nonfatal stroke. Secondary outcomes of interest included major procedure-related complications occurring during or within the first 48 Horus after CT or invasive coronary angiography.

Of the 3561 included in the intention-to-treat analysis, 1808 represented the CT group and 1753 represented to invasive coronary angiography group. Baseline characteristics of patients were similar between the study groups and the median follow-up time was 3.5 (IQR, 2.9-4.2) years.

During the follow-up period, a total of 90 major adverse cardiovascular events occurred among the study cohort, with events occurring among 2.1% in the CT group and 3.0% in the invasive coronary angiography group (HR, 0.70 [95% CI, 0.46-1.07]; P=.10). When assessing major procedure-related complications, 42 such events were identified by investigators, with these events occurring in 0.5% of the CT group and 1.9% of the invasive coronary angiography group (HR, 0.26 [95% CI, 0.13-0.55]). Assessments of angina among study participants during the final 4 weeks of follow-up indicated angina was reported by 8.8% of the CT group and 7.5% of the invasive coronary angiography group (HR, 1.17 [95% CI, 0.92-1.48]).

“Now that it has been standardized and quality-tested as part of the DISCHARGE trial, this method could be made more widely available as part of the routine clinical care of people with intermediate CAD risk,” said Henryk Dreger, Deputy Head of Charité’s Department of Cardiology and Angiology, in the aforementioned statement.

This study, “CT or Invasive Coronary Angiography in Stable Chest Pain,” was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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