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To examine the effects of ischemic preconditioning on efferent autonomic responses following acute transmural myocardial ischemia/infarction (MI), the time course and extent of efferent sympathetic and vagal denervation were compared between control dogs that received a one-stage sustained coronary occlusion and preconditioned dogs that received four 5-minute coronary occlusions separated by 5 minutes of reperfusion before sustained occlusion. Effective refractory periods (ERP) basal and apical to MI were determined in the baseline state and during neural stimulation before and after preconditioning occlusions and 20, 60, 120, and 180 minutes after sustained occlusion by ligature ligation of diagonal branches of the left anterior descending coronary artery. In 10 control dogs with transmural MI, ERP shortening induced by bilateral ansae subclaviae stimulation (4-msec pulses, 2-4 Hz and 2-4 mA) was unchanged at basal sites but was attenuated at apical sites. Four of 40 apical test sites exhibited efferent sympathetic denervation ( /-2 msec shortening) 20 minutes after sustained occlusion. Thirteen of 40 apical sites became denervated during a 3-hour period. In 10 preconditioned dogs, ERP shortening at apical sites was unchanged after preconditioning occlusions and during the first 60 minutes of sustained ischemia but was attenuated at 120 minutes. Three of 40 apical test sites became denervated during a 3-hour period. The cumulative percentage of denervated apical test sites was significantly less in the preconditioned group compared with the control group (p=0.006) despite a comparable degree of subepicardial involvement in the MI (8.2 /-1.0percent; vs. 8.4 /-1.4percent;, the ratio to the left ventricular circumference, mean /-SEM). In 11 control dogs tested for efferent vagal response after MI, ERP prolongation induced by bilateral vagal stimulation (4-msec pulses, 20 Hz with current strength 0.05 mA greater than that required to produce asystole) was unchanged at basal sites, but was attenuated at apical sites, and five of 44 test sites exhibited denervation ( /-1 msec prolongation) 20 minutes after sustained coronary occlusion. Fourteen of 40 apical sites became denervated during a 3-hour period. In 10 preconditioned dogs, vagally induced ERP prolongation was unchanged both at basal and apical sites, and none of 36 apical test sites exhibited denervation after preconditioning and during a 3-hour period of sustained coronary occlusion (p<0.001 vs. control group) despite a comparable degree of subendocardial involvement in the MI (11.8 /-0.8percent; vs. 11.9 /-1.3percent;). In preconditioned hearts, the blood flow reduction to the ischemic myocardium measured by radioactive microspheres during sustained coronary occlusion was comparable with that during the first preconditioning occlusion, indicating that an increase in collateral blood flow during MI cannot explain the protective effects of preconditioning. We conclude that preconditioning with brief episodes of ischemia preserves efferent sympathetic and vagal responses during the early period after coronary artery occlusion in the dog by mechanisms still to be determined.

(C) 1989 American Heart Association, Inc.