The diagnosis and treatment of the no-reflow phenomenon in patients with myocardial infarction undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention

Exp Clin Cardiol. Fall 2008;13(3):121-8.


Objective: To review the diagnosis and treatment available for myocardial infarction patients having no-reflow in the setting of percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).

Data sources: Data for the present review were obtained from searches in PubMed (1997 to 2007) using the following key terms: "acute myocardial infarction", "no-reflow phenomenon", "myocardial contrast echocardiography", "coronary angiography" and "cardioprotection devices".

Study selection: Mainly original articles and critical reviews written by major research pioneers in interventional cardiology were selected.

Results: Despite a fully patent coronary artery post-PCI for myocardial infarction, patients may experience inadequate myocardial perfusion through a given segment of the coronary circulation without angiographic evidence of mechanical vessel obstruction. This phenomenon is defined as no-reflow and is a growing problem in the field of interventional cardiology. Although voluminous clinical trial data are available, the exact mechanisms involved and which treatment should be administered as first-line therapy are currently unknown. The different techniques used to diagnose no-reflow also have their pros and cons; myocardial contrast echocardiography and coronary angiography are the most reliable techniques. In cases when no-reflow was successfully reversed, patient recovery was associated with favourable left ventricular remodelling and increased left ventricular ejection fraction, even in the absence of significant improvement in regional contractile function.

Conclusion: Based on the trials in the literature, myocardial contrast echocardiography is the gold standard for the diagnosis of no-reflow. If no-reflow occurs following PCI, treatment with intracoronary adenosine or verapamil should be administered, because this form of therapy is inexpensive and safe, improves flow in the target vessel and may reduce infarct size.

Keywords: Acute myocardial infarction; Cardioprotection devices; Coronary angiography; Myocardial contrast echocardiography; No-reflow phenomenon; Vasodilators.