Myocardial protection with mild hypothermia

Cardiovasc Res. 2012 May 1;94(2):217-25. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvr315. Epub 2011 Nov 29.


Mild hypothermia, 32-35° C, is very potent at reducing myocardial infarct size in rabbits, dogs, sheep, pigs, and rats. The benefit is directly related to reduction in normothermic ischaemic time, supporting the relevance of early and rapid cooling. The cardioprotective effect of mild hypothermia is not limited to its recognized reduction of infarct size, but also results in conservation of post-ischaemic contractile function, prevention of no-reflow or microvascular obstruction, and ultimately attenuation of left ventricular remodelling. The mechanism of the anti-infarct effect does not appear to be related to diminished energy utilization and metabolic preservation, but rather to survival signalling that involves either the extracellular signal-regulated kinases and/or the Akt/phosphoinositide 3-kinase/mammalian target of rapamycin pathways. Initial clinical trials of hypothermia in patients with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction were disappointing, probably because cooling was too slow to shorten normothermic ischaemic time appreciably. New approaches to more rapid cooling have recently been described and may soon be available for clinical use. Alternatively, it may be possible to pharmacologically mimic the protection provided by cooling soon after the onset of ischaemia with an activator of mild hypothermia signalling, e.g. extracellular signal-regulated kinase activator, that could be given by emergency medical personnel. Finally, the protection afforded by cooling can be added to that of pre- and post-conditioning because their mechanisms differ. Thus, myocardial salvage might be greatly increased by rapidly cooling patients as soon as possible and then giving a pharmacological post-conditioning agent immediately prior to reperfusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia, Induced / methods*
  • Myocardial Infarction / physiopathology
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy*
  • Myocardial Reperfusion Injury / prevention & control*
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases