Indexed on: 14 Mar '07Published on: 14 Mar '07Published in: Angiology
There seem to be additional mechanisms of benefit in patients receiving late reperfusion therapy in a time when the opportunity for myocardial salvage has been missed. Previous studies have demonstrated that the restoration of blood flow in the infarct-related coronary artery in patients with acute myocardial infarction improves left ventricular function and reduces mortality. Initially, it was thought that survival was improved because viable myocardium was salvaged. However, data obtained over the past several years have suggested that the restoration of antegrade flow in the infarct-related artery may improve survival via a mechanism independent of the influence on left ventricular function. Clinical interest in the open artery hypothesis has recently resurfaced owing to a substantial improvement in technical aspects of percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI). Observational data suggest a role for late intervention as safer and more effective mechanical reperfusion practices have emerged. Long-term clinical benefits have been shown from balloon angioplasty late after myocardial infarction (MI). Therefore, patients with failed thrombolysis or those with late-presenting MI may still benefit from PCI by mechanisms independent of myocardial salvage. There is accumulative evidence on this matter. Possible mechanisms include reduction of ventricular remodeling, diminished ventricular instability reducing the incidence of arrhythmias, and provision of collaterals to other territories in the event of further coronary artery occlusion. However, caution must be exercised in interpreting the results of studies examining the open artery hypothesis. This hypothesis can be tested in its purest sense in animal experiments; however, the clinical situation is much more complex. Patients may have acute-on-chronic coronary artery occlusion in the presence of multivessel disease and well-developed collateral channels. The pattern of necrosis may also be different with areas of necrosis separated by islands of ischemic, stunned, hibernating, or normal cells. Therefore, the patency of the infarct-related coronary artery in single or multivessel disease days to weeks after infarction markedly influences long-term prognosis unrelated to improvement of left ventricular function. Current technology has made it feasible to open and maintain patency of most occluded infarct-related arteries. However, the hypothesis that late mechanical reperfusion in patients with asymptomatic occluded infarct-related artery will improve long-term clinical outcomes remains to be proved and is currently being tested in a large randomized trial.