The concept of Fractional flow reserve ( FFR) has dominated the coronary interventional field for over a decade. It gave us a (false) sense of security and pride that we have been advocating physiology-based appropriate stenting.
The much-expected FlOWER-MI trial was presented in ACC & NEJM a week ago. (May 16th Issue 2021)
FFR, though physiologically an attractive concept, has many well-known confounders right from the technical factors, lesion-related errors in physics, mirage of true hyperemia induction with Adenosine, finally & most importantly microvascular dynamism. The value of FFR in the ACS setting was always a suspect. So, no surprises with the FLOWER trial conclusion. It has concluded FFR guided interventions in the non-IRA vessels following STEMI had no use in terms of the hard endpoint. Lesson: We can’t really expect true coronary physiology rules to be alive when severe pathology has set in)
Wait, there can be quixotic ways to Interpret this study be as well.
FLOWER trial reveals the number of stents used with FFR guidance was 50% less (mean 1.01 vs 1.5 stents). Though there was no difference in deaths, the incidence of nonfatal myocardial infarction was more in FFR group 18 (3.1%) than the non-FFR group (1.7% ). Similarly, unplanned hospitalization leading to urgent revascularization was more in FFR (2.6%) than non-FFR (1.9%). Though all were not stat significant, FFR has helped reduce the number of stents in non-culprit lesions. Still, recurrent non-fatal MI and urgent revascularisation were high in the FFR group. So, is it possible FFR related procedural hazards are real? Who can (& how) quantify that? or Is it Inappropriate non-stenting due to FFR misguidance responsible for this trend?
There is one more risk with the potential demise of FFR as a concept. Extreme scientists, might ditch physiology to the backyard and go for free for all stenting again. (Back to shadow physiology & oculocardiac reflex)
There is an extrapolated lesson to be learned from DEFER*/ FLOWER trial combo. FFR or no FFR, never touch the non-IRA lesions in stable STEMI* however tempting it may be. (*This rule applies even in some unstable STEMIs (Please recall Culprit shock trial )