Author + information
- Received June 8, 1992
- Revision received July 28, 1992
- Accepted July 30, 1992
- Published online February 1, 1993.
- Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD, FACC∗
- ↵∗Address for correspondence: Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD, The Heart Institute, Hospital of the Good Samaritan, 616 South Witmer, Los Angeles, California 90017-2395.
Timely coronary reperfusion as treatment for acute myocardial infarction reduces myocardial infarct size, improves left ventricular function and survival. There is still concern that at the time of reperfusion, a further injury occurs to the myocardium. Theoretically, if this “reperfusion injury” could be treated and eliminated, the outcome for patients with myocardial infarction might further improve. The concept of reperfusion injury is closely tied to the concept that oxygen radicals generated at the time of reperfusion cause tissue damage. There are four basic forms of reperfusion injury.
Lethal reperfusion injuryis described as myocyte cell death due to reperfusion itself rather than to the preceding ischemia. This concept continues to be controversial in both experimental animal and clinical studies. Vascular reperfusion injuryrefers to progressive damage to the vasculature over time during the phase of reperfusion. Manifestations of vascular reperfusion injury include an expanding zone of no reflow and a deterioration of coronary flow reserve. This form of reperfusion injury has been documented in animal models and probably occurs in humans. Stunned myocardiumrefers to postischemic ventricular dysfunction of viable myocytes and probably represents a form of “functional reperfusion injury.” This phenomenon is well documented in both animal models and humans. Reperfusion arrhythmiasrepresent the fourth form of reperfusion injury. They include ventricular tachycardia and fibrillation that occur within seconds to minutes of restoration of coronary flow after brief (5 to 15 min) episodes of myocardial ischemia. True reperfusion arrhythmias occur in only a small percentage of patients receiving thrombolytic therapy for acute myocardial infarction and are not a sensitive indicator for successful reperfusion. Nevertheless, reperfusion arrhythmias may be important as a cause of sudden death in patients with coronary artery spasm.
Although it is likely that the question of whether lethal reperfusion injury occurs in humans will remain unanswered for some time, the concept of reperfusion injury should not dissuade the clinician from instituting reperfusion as soon as possible after the onset of acute myocardial infarction.
- Received June 8, 1992.
- Revision received July 28, 1992.
- Accepted July 30, 1992.