Oxygen-derived free radicals and 'stunned myocardium'

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A brief, transient period of coronary artery occlusion (<20 minutes in duration) followed by reperfusion does not result in irreversible myocyte injury or death, yet the regional contractile function and high energy phosphate content of the previously ischemic tissue remains depressed or 'stunned' for hours to days following reperfusion. It has been suggested that this prolonged postischemic dysfunction of viable, previously ischemic myocardium may be a consequence of oxygen-derived free radicals generated during occlusion or at the time of reperfusion. Recent evidence demonstrates that free radical scavenging agents such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) + catalase, N-2-mercaptopropionylglycine, and allopurinol, administered prior to coronary artery occlusion, significantly enhance recovery of regional contractile function of the stunned, previously ischemic tissue. This improved contractile function was not, however, accompanied by improvements in high energy phosphate metabolism: infusion of SOD + catalase did not preserve ATP stores in the previously ischemic tissue. These data support the hypothesis that oxygen-derived free radicals contribute, at least in part, to the phenomenon of the stunned myocardium. The source or mechanisms of free radical production in the setting of brief, transient ischemia, however, remains to be elucidated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-44
Number of pages6
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1988


  • Adenosine triphosphate content
  • Free radical scavengers
  • Myocardial ischemia
  • Regional contractile function
  • Reperfusion
  • Sonomicrometry


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