Heparin Versus Bivalirudin in Acute Myocardial Infarction: Unfractionated Heparin Monotherapy Elevated to Primary Treatment in Contemporary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention

Osmar Antonio Centurión*
Department of Cardiology, Clínic Hospital, Asunción National University, Cardiovascular Institute, Sanatorio Migone-Battilana, Asunción, Paraguay

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© Osmar Antonio Centurión; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

Correspondence: Address correspondence to this author at the Conacyt Investigator Level II, Department of Cardiology, Asunción National University, Trejo y Sanabria 1657, Sajonia, Asunción, Paraguay; Tel: 595-21-421423; Fax: 595-21-421423; E-mail:


Bivalirudin, a direct thrombin inhibitor, was developed as an antithrombin agent for patients undergoing percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI) with the hypothesis that it would reduce bleeding complications without compromising the rate of ischemic events compared to heparin plus GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors. Although the cumulative evidence makes a strong argument for the use of bivalirudin rather than heparin plus systematic GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors for the great majority of patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) undergoing PCI, the benefit observed with bivalirudin was achieved because of the major bleeding complications with the use of heparin plus GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors. When bivalirudin was compared with unfractionated heparin alone there was no benefit in ischemic complications with a decrease in major bleeding. However, in a recent large randomized controlled trial comparing bivalirudin with unfractionated heparin alone in AMI patients undergoing primary PCI, bivalirudin did not reduce bleeding complications and was associated with higher rates of stent thrombosis, myocardial reinfarction, and repeat revascularization compared with heparin. Moreover, a very recent meta-analysis shed more insights on the utilization of bivalirudin versus heparin regimens during PCI. Findings from this meta-analysis suggest that routine use of bivalirudin offers little advantage over heparin among PCI patients. In a detailed analysis of some randomized trials and observational studies with bivalirudin in AMI patients done by myself and published almost five years ago in this journal, I rendered some reflections on the future widespread use of bivalirudin. “In the setting of PCI in AMI patients, and in the absence of GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors, bivalirudin did not offer any beneficial effect in the incidence of the composite end points when compared with heparin alone. For now, in real world practice, one would probably choose a well known cheaper drug that has already passed the test of time, heparin. There may be reinforcement in the sole utilization of heparin confining GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors and other intravenous antithrombotics to bailout therapy for periprocedural PCI complications in AMI patients”. Therefore, instead of being the beginning of a new era with bivalirudin, it sure is a welcome back to an old friend, heparin. Indeed, after more than two decades, it is always good to welcome back an old friend, unfractionated heparin, as monotherapy and preferred anticoagulant regimen for contemporary PCI in AMI patients.

Keywords: Acute myocardial infarction, Bivalirudin, Percutaneous coronary intervention, Unfractionated heparin.