Background: Reperfusion causes injury to the coronary artery endothelium primarily by neutrophil-mediated mechanisms. However, factors other than neutrophils may govern the extent of myocardial necrosis. This study tests the hypothesis that gradual initiation of reflow will reduce reperfusion injury and preserve postischemic endothelial function.
Methods: In 16 anesthetized dogs, the left anterior descending artery was ligated for 60 minutes. In one group, reperfusion was initiated abruptly (abrupt, n = 8), whereas in the gradual reperfusion group (ramp, n = 8), flow was slowly initiated during the first 30 minutes of reperfusion. After reperfusion, coronary artery segments were isolated to assess postischemic endothelial function.
Results: Infarct size (area of necrosis/area at risk) was significantly reduced in the ramp group (28.2% +/- 2.0%) compared with abrupt (41.6% +/- 1.4%). Neutrophil accumulation (myeloperoxidase) in the area at risk was significantly greater in the ramp group compared with abrupt (8.0 +/- 1.3 versus 3.5 +/- 0.8 U/g tissue). In isolated postischemic left anterior descending arterial rings, the concentration of acetylcholine that elicited a response 50% of the maximum possible response was significantly greater in abrupt (-6.88 +/- 0.04 log [mol/L]) than ramp (-7.62 +/- 0.04 log [mol/L]) and control (-7.68 +/- 0.003 log [mol/L]), suggesting endothelial dysfunction. The concentration of A23187 that elicited a response 50% of the maximum possible response was similarly greater in abrupt (-7.24 +/- 0.03 log [mol/L]) versus ramp (-7.62 +/- 0.03 log [mol/L]) and control (-7.8 +/- 0.04 log [mol/L]). Smooth muscle dysfunction (response to sodium nitrite) also occurred in the abrupt rings.
Conclusions: Gradual reperfusion of an ischemic area reduces infarct size and preserves endothelial function but paradoxically increases neutrophil accumulation within the area at risk.