Reduction of myocardial infarct size with ischemic "conditioning": Physiologic and technical considerations

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A wealth of evidence has revealed that the heart can be "conditioned" and rendered less vulnerable to ischemia-reperfusion injury via the upregulation of endogenous protective signaling pathways. Three distinct conditioning strategies have been identified: (1) preconditioning, the phenomenon where brief episodes of myocardial ischemia (too brief to cause cardiomyocyte death) limit necrosis caused by a subsequent sustained ischemic insult; (2) postconditioning, the concept that relief of myocardial ischemia in a staged or stuttered manner attenuates lethal ischemia-reperfusion injury; and (3) remote conditioning, or upregulation of a cardioprotective phenotype initiated by ischemia in a remote organ or tissue and "transported" to the heart. Progress has been made in defining the technical requirements and limitations of each of the 3 ischemic conditioning models (including the timing and severity of the protective stimulus), as well as elucidating the molecular mechanisms (in particular, the receptor-mediated signaling pathways) responsible for conditioning-induced myocardial protection. Moreover, phase III clinical trials are in progress, seeking to capitalize on the protection that can be achieved by postconditioning and remote conditioning, and applying these strategies in patients undergoing cardiac surgery or angioplasty for the treatment of acute myocardial infarction. There is, however, a potentially important caveat to the clinical translation of myocardial conditioning: emerging data suggest that the efficacy of ischemic conditioning is compromised in aging, diabetic, and hypertensive cohorts, the specific populations in which myocardial protection is most relevant. Successful clinical application of myocardial conditioning will therefore require an understanding of the potential confounding consequences of these comorbidities on the "conditioned" phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)891-901
Number of pages11
JournalAnesthesia and Analgesia
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2013


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