Since the initial description of the phenomenon by Jennings et al 50 years ago, our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of reperfusion injury has grown significantly. Its pathogenesis reflects the confluence of multiple pathways, including ion channels, reactive oxygen species, inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction. The purposes of this review are to examine the current state of understanding of ischemia-reperfusion injury, as well as to highlight recent interventions aimed at this heretofore elusive target. In conclusion, despite its complexity our ongoing efforts to mitigate this form of injury should not be deterred, because nearly 2 million patients annually undergo either spontaneous (in the form of acute myocardial infarction) or iatrogenic (in the context of cardioplegic arrest) ischemia-reperfusion.
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