Ischemia and reperfusion injury. The ultimate pathophysiologic paradox

Clin Perinatol. 1998 Sep;25(3):757-77.


It seems clear that the abundance of potential treatment options reflects the dearth of proved, effective options. Thus, although we appear to be on the brink of many potentially major breakthroughs in treatment, there currently remains a multitude of unanswered questions and the need for further study. At this point clinical recommendations must be limited to supportive care with moderation: oxygenation without hyperoxia; ventilation without hypocarbia; avoiding extremes of blood pressure, hematocrit, blood glucose, and body temperature. Unfortunately, data from human trials are extremely limited and often poorly controlled. Furthermore, even those few existing human studies have rarely--if ever--dealt with newborns infants (Table 2). In addition, many of the existing studies do not relate to generalized asphyxia but rather to single-organ reperfusion insults. Finally, there is the critical issue of timing. Unfortunately, much of the existing experimental data relate to prophylaxis rather than treatment, severely limiting their potential for clinical applicability. Interventions may have quite different effects when administered at different phases of this most intricate process. Hyperglycemia, for example, may be neuroprotective before an insult but detrimental if induced after an asphyxial episode. Conversely, the NMDA blocker MK-801 can adversely affect outcome when given before a global asphyxial insult but can reduce seizure-related damage when given during the hyperexcitability phase. Insulin-like growth factor is also neuroprotective only when given after an insult, but it is not helpful if given before. An intimate understanding of the pathophysiologic processes involved is essential before any attempts at applying the diverse data derived from numerous animal studies to the human situation in an intelligent manner. Future studies may focus on cocktails of different mixtures of the compounds discussed or on single multipotential drugs, which would make possible a multipronged approach. However, it is essential to investigate fully the potential for toxic drug interactions, as some combinations may be produce serious consequences. For example, Gluckman and Williams evaluated the potential of combining calcium channel blockers with NMDA receptor antagonists in hypoxic-ischemic rats and found that this combination led to rapid cardiovascular collapse. Other enticing approaches for future investigations will probably include some genetic-engineering-related studies in attempt to enhance endogenous antioxidant defenses with regulon stimulation or the administration of neurotrophic growth factors. Unavoidably, the trip from the laboratory to the bedside must of necessity be an arduous and rigorous one.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asphyxia Neonatorum / therapy*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inflammation
  • Rats
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / physiology
  • Reperfusion Injury / drug therapy
  • Reperfusion Injury / etiology*
  • Reperfusion Injury / physiopathology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Reactive Oxygen Species