In the Summer of 2012 David Brailsford presided over Team GB’s incredible haul of cycling medals in the Olympic games. What was the secret of this team’s success? The simple answer was there wasn’t one secret but as Dave Brailsford said it was the aggregation of marginal gains. Performing a coronary angioplasty can take as little as 15 minutes but even with the simplest procedure there are many different choices which the operator needs to make and each of these influences the outcome of the procedure and the risk of complications. Close attention to detail, wise choices and the sum of the marginal gains makes the difference between getting a bronze and achieving gold.
Here is an example. The patient is a 75 year old obese man with diabetes and hypertension. He has a stenosis in the mid right coronary artery. The artery is mildly calcified and a somewhat tortuous. Dr Groin is a default femoral operator. With a 6F sheath, a right Judkin’s guide catheter and a hydrophilic guide wire most cases can be done. Groin access takes but a moment and the coronary artery is easily intubated, the wire glides through the vessel with its usual speed and hydrophilic coating. Within moments the lesion is pre-dilated with a balloon. Then comes the stent but there is a problem, the tortuousity and the calcification makes the stent difficult to track through the vessel. The JR4 catheter does not give any support and the stent cannot be manoeuvred into the correct place. A buddy wire is passed but still the stent won’t track to the lesion. Further ballooning is performed in the vessel which results in a small dissection and without the ability to deliver a drug coated stent they try a bare metal stent which is finally deployed with a reasonable result. The procedure takes 75 minutes and there is 300ml contrast used. An angioseal vascular closure device is deployed but does not quite seal the artery completely and the patient develops a haematoma. The patient eventually leaves the hospital 4 days later. His procedure was a success, the vessel was stented but was this as good as it could possibly be.
Dr Wrist usually takes the radial approach. A 5Fglideliner sheath and a 6F AL1 guide catheter are used because the vessel is calcified and somewhat tortuous and he thinks that extra support may be needed. The lesion is crossed with a supportive angioplasty wire, the wire is harder to manipulate than the hydrophilic coated wires but once in the distal vessel it gives excellent support and remains very stable. The vessel is tortuous but the AL-1 gives a really good back up support and the lesion is ballooned with a 2.5x12 balloon and then a 3.5x15 drug eluting stent is deployed with a good result. Because the lesion was calcified a further 3.5x12 non-compliant balloon inflation is made to high pressure with a very good angiographic result. The procedure takes 27 minutes and there is 60ml contrast used. A TR band is placed on the wrist with patent haemostasis and the patient is discharged from the hospital 6h later. His procedure was a success, the vessel was stented.
Both patients had a successful PCI on paper but Dr Wrist’s procedure was more successful for the patient. The sum of the small parts – access site, catheter choice, wire choice and ability to deliver devices. All of these single decisions feed into the outcome of the procedure for the patient. Alone each one of these things may contribute only a fraction of a percent to a difference in outcome but when they are all put together they can add up and the sum of marginal gains leads to safer and more effective practice.
So how do we achieve these marginal gains in practice: Set audacious goals, work with others who share your vision. Focus, Focus, Focus. Collect high quality procedure data, outcomes data and learn from it. Be disciplined to capture every gain.
Dr Richard Bogle
The opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author and should not be construed as the opinion or policy of my employers nor recommendations for your care or anyone else's. Always seek professional guidance instead.