Objectives: We sought to validate with coronary angiography several primary and ancillary markers of reperfusion.
Background: The availability of bedside markers of reperfusion is of major importance in the thrombolytic therapy of acute myocardial infarction. However, the reliability of current markers is still controversial.
Methods: Changes in chest pain, ST segment elevation and heart rate and rhythm were assessed every 5 to 10 min for up to 3 h after initiation of recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator therapy in 82 patients with acute myocardial infarction. Coronary angiography was performed within 24 h.
Results: At angiography, 69 of the 82 patients had a patent infarct-related artery with Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction trial (TIMI) grade 3 flow and a rapid and progressive decrease in chest pain and ST elevation. The pain resolved in 24 +/- 23 min (range 3 to 50). The ST elevation decreased by > or = 50% within 16 +/- 14 min (range 5 to 41). Accelerated idioventricular rhythm developed in 49% of patients and sinus bradycardia in 23%; conduction abnormalities and atrial fibrillation resolved. All markers appeared in close temporal proximity to the onset of an abrupt increase in plasma creatine kinase (CK) and CK-MB isoenzyme activity, a previously validated marker of the time of reperfusion. Before its final resolution, ST elevation transiently decreased and increased in 58% of patients. Comparison of one pretreatment and one posttreatment electrocardiogram significantly reduced the reliability of ST segment change as a marker of reperfusion. In 13 of 82 patients, the infarct-related artery demonstrated TIMI grade < or = 2 flow; in 9, pain and ST elevation did not lessen and CK and CK-MB activity showed no abrupt increase. The remaining four patients initially demonstrated a decrease in pain and ST elevation; however, within 3 h and before angiography, the recurrence of pain and ST elevation suggested reocclusion.
Conclusions: A rapid and progressive decrease in pain and ST elevation is a reliable marker of reperfusion with TIMI grade 3 flow. Because ST elevation and pain often fluctuate before undergoing final resolution with reperfusion, frequent or continuous monitoring of ST elevation is essential for reliable recognition of the fact and time of reperfusion. Accelerated idioventricular rhythm and episodes of sudden sinus bradycardia, although specific to reperfusion, do not occur in all patients with reperfusion.