BACKGROUND: Direct stenting without balloon predilatation has been shown to be feasible and safe with drug-eluting stents, but no randomized comparisons between the two strategies exist. This study was designed to compare direct stenting with balloon predilatation followed by stent placement using only drug-eluting stents. METHODS: One hundred and sixty-six consecutive coronary lesions in 95 consenting patients (mean age 59 +/- 11 years; 12 women) were randomly assigned to direct stenting (n = 88), or balloon predilatation followed by stenting (n = 78), using sirolimus- or paclitaxel-eluting stents. RESULTS: All procedures were uneventful. Crossover to balloon predilatation was necessary in 6 (7%) lesions randomized to direct stenting. During a 12-month follow up period, ischemia-driven angiography was performed in 13 patients. By intention to treat analysis, target lesion revascularization was required in 4 lesions, all of which were randomized to the predilatation group (p = 0.04). CONCLUSIONS: Direct stenting was feasible in up to 93% of attempted lesions. A strategy of direct stenting resulted in a significantly lower rate of target lesion revascularization over a 12-month follow-up period compared to balloon predilatation followed by stenting.