Preconditioning and postconditioning: innate cardioprotection from ischemia-reperfusion injury

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2007 Oct;103(4):1441-8. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00642.2007. Epub 2007 Jul 5.


Reperfusion is the definitive treatment to salvage ischemic myocardium from infarction. A primary determinant of infarct size is the duration of ischemia. In myocardium that has not been irreversibly injured by ischemia, reperfusion induces additional injury in the area at risk. The heart has potent innate cardioprotective mechanisms against ischemia-reperfusion that reduce infarct size and other presentations of postischemic injury. Ischemic preconditioning (IPC) applied before the prolonged ischemia exerts the most potent protection observed among known strategies. It has been assumed that IPC exerts protection during ischemia. However, recent data suggest that cardioprotection is also exerted during reperfusion. Postconditioning (PoC), defined as brief intermittent cycles of ischemia alternating with reperfusion applied after the ischemic event, has been shown to reduce infarct size, in some cases equivalent to that observed with IPC. Although there are similarities in mechanisms of cardioprotection by these two interventions, there are key differences that go beyond simply exerting these mechanisms before or after ischemia. A significant limitation of IPC has been the inability to apply this maneuver clinically except in situations where the ischemic event can be predicted. On the other hand, PoC is applied at the point of service in the hospital (cath-lab for percutaneous coronary intervention, coronary artery bypass grafting, and other cardiac surgery) where and when reperfusion is initiated. Initial clinical studies are in agreement with the success and extent to which PoC reduces infarct size and myocardial injury, even in the presence of multiple comorbidities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Ischemic Preconditioning, Myocardial*
  • Myocardial Infarction / physiopathology
  • Myocardial Infarction / prevention & control*
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy*
  • Myocardial Reperfusion*
  • Reperfusion Injury / prevention & control*