Among the numerous mechanisms proposed for myocardial stunning, three appear to be more plausible: 1) generation of oxygen radicals, 2) calcium overload, and 3) excitation-contraction uncoupling. First, the evidence for a pathogenetic role of oxygen-derived free radicals in myocardial stunning is overwhelming. In the setting of a single 15-minute coronary occlusion, mitigation of stunning by antioxidants has been reproducibly observed by several independent laboratories. Similar protection has been recently demonstrated in the conscious animal, that is, in the most physiological experimental preparation available. Furthermore, generation of free radicals in the stunned myocardium has been directly demonstrated by spin trapping techniques, and attenuation of free radical generation has been repeatedly shown to result in attenuation of contractile dysfunction. Numerous observations suggest that oxyradicals also contribute to stunning in other settings: after global ischemia in vitro, after global ischemia during cardioplegic arrest in vivo, and after multiple brief episodes of regional ischemia in vivo. Compelling evidence indicates that the critical free radical damage occurs in the initial moments of reflow, so that myocardial stunning can be viewed as a sublethal form of oxyradical-mediated "reperfusion injury." Second, there is also considerable evidence that a transient calcium overload during early reperfusion contributes to postischemic dysfunction in vitro; however, the importance of this mechanism in vivo remains to be defined. Third, inadequate release of calcium by the sarcoplasmic reticulum, with consequent excitation-contraction uncoupling, may occur after multiple brief episodes of regional ischemia, but its role in other forms of postischemic dysfunction has not been explored. It is probable that multiple mechanisms contribute to the pathogenesis of myocardial stunning. The three hypotheses outlined above are not mutually exclusive and in fact may represent different steps of the same pathophysiological cascade. Thus, generation of oxyradicals may cause sarcoplasmic reticulum dysfunction, and both of these processes may lead to calcium overload, which in turn could exacerbate the damage initiated by oxygen species. The concepts discussed in this review should provide not only a conceptual framework for further investigation of the pathophysiology of reversible ischemia-reperfusion injury but also a rationale for developing clinically applicable interventions designed to prevent postischemic ventricular dysfunction.
- Copyright © 1990 by American Heart Association