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Posts Tagged ‘no reflow’

A patient with  extensive anterior STEMI  presented 18 hours  after onset of  chest pain . He  was  other wise stable and free from angina but had persistent ST elevation (5mm in V 1 to V 5 ). He had a  total occlusion of LAD  with TIMI zero  flow . He had a  tight PDA lesion  as well . A bed side echo revealed LV EF  of 50% . The septum was hypo-kinetic but did not appear severely dysfunctional .

So , it was decided to open up the LAD. The moment  LAD was opened he developed severe acute LVF  /   flash pulmonary edema   .  Even after a 30 minutes of  heart (Fire )  fighting  he could not be resuscitated .

What is the mechanism of death here ? Expert  STEMI interventionist  from core  labs  may answer this !

An acute ischemic MR with myocardial disruption was suggested . Why it  was triggered after opening the IRA ?

Three mechanisms were discussed

  1. Re-perfusion injury
  2. Collateral  damage
  3. Physiological  de-stabilisation of  Contra -Lateral lesion (Remote lesions )

Re-perfusion Injury ?  How relevant it is in cath lab ?

Is re-perfusion injury  electrical  ,  mechanical or  both ?

In this particular patient even though there was a total LAD occlusion , the segments supplied   by  the LAD  was partially functional and  it was contributing to LV  pump function.  The moment  a trickle of   flow was established  , some thing happened and the whatever  little mechanical function  his LV  had  was also interrupted  . The LV came to standstill and the patient died .

If re-perfusion Injury is  simply an   electrical  event   like VF ,  it can be resuscitated . If it is mechanical  outcome is bad ! This is not a new concept  . It is  part of the  once famous  concept called myocardial stunning . There are  lots of reasons   for stunning  to be a  clinically relevant phenomenon .Unfortunately   if any cardiologist talks about it in 2012 ,  he is at risk of  labeled  as old fashioned !

Collateral damage.

One more mechanism which we feel that  might have contributed to death here  is   the  “collateral damage” .(This is not cross fire !)

We know collaterals can be recruited within 12 hours in many STEMI patients . In some  it can even salvage  significant mass of  myocardium . The acute collaterals to LAD may be interrupted  during primary PCI . Once you poke the lesion the coronary  vascular  bed which had dilated  (as a response to total occlusion ) may react with inappropriate vasoconstriction . This raises the local hydrostatic pressure (Myocardial edema)  and further impede  the   incoming  micro collateral flow . This a very  critical time  for the myocardium  where antegrade and retrograde flow are kept in a fine balance .

Interference with remote lesion Hemodynamics .

Another possibility  is  the  opening the  LAD lesion some how  impact on remote lesional  flow as well (PDA  in this patient  )

Please remember ,

Even a transient hypo- tension can have  devastating effect in  the  hemo -dynamics   of  non IRA  territory  especially if it harbors a critical lesion !

Final message

Coming to the title question  , Is no – flow better than  slow- flow in late presenters of STEMI ?

Common sense dictates whenever  an artery is obstructed  just get rid of it.  When  it  comes to the heart it must be done in an urgent basis That is the essence of primary angioplasty  . . .  agreed . But in this  patient  I believe ,  the  common sense  was proved wrong !

Truths are always hidden.  The  science of  myocardial re-perfusion is a perfect example . We need to learn a lot still !

This I  call as  Para cardiology : Heart  facts without  evidence !

Counter point

One may argue this   is an  exceptional case  in STEMI  intervention. Don’t  hype   exceptions  and undermine the importance of a great concept ! Exceptions  and rules  are directly related to our  experience  we have accrued.  Exceptions are the great  knowledge substrates  and help  crack  medical  mysteries !

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Thrombolytic therapy ,  has been  the specific treatment  for STEMI for  many decades. Primary PCI*  is  shown to be  superior  than  thrombolysis  if   performed   early  by an experienced  team in a dedicated facility. (*Conditions apply). It is estimated ,   currently only a  a fraction  STEMI  population get primary PCI (<5%) in ideal conditions . Another fraction , get  primary PCI by inexperienced cardiologists  in low volume centres.

So , thrombolysis   remains, and  would continue to remain ,   the    primary  mode of therapy for STEMI  in the  present and near  future !

How do you assess the successful  thrombolysis ?

It should be recognised ,  there is a fundametal flaw in this  question !

The aim of thrombolytic therapy is  not  to   lyse  the thrombus  , but also  to restore the coronary blood flow to the  myocardium – also called reperfusion . One may wonder , why the term ,  thrombolysis  should ‘t be  used interchangeably with reperfusion. 

A successful thrombolysis  never guarantees  a good reperfusion , for the simple reason ,  distal blood flow in an  obstructed coronary artery  is dependent on ,  many factors  other than relief of obstruction.

Apart from the potency of drug,     other   important factors  that determine  successful  lysis &  reperfusion are  . . .

  • Timing of opening of artery , if the thrombolysis is delayed  ,  the distal myocardium is dead , and   it won’t allow blood flow to enter the mycardium.
  • Microvascular integrity is as vital as epicardial vessels.
  • Distal microvascualture  plugging by the thrombotic debri . This is called”no reflow “

So , we should  primarily assess myocardial reperfusion rather than epicardial thrombolyis ! following thrombolysis .

What are the parameters available to assess successful reperfusion /thrombolyis?

  1. Clinical : Relief from chest  pain. Angina relief  , though subjective is an indication for adequate reperfusion of ischemic myocardium.
  2. ECG-ST segment regression > 50%
  3. Cardiac enzymes: Early flushing of  intra myocytic CPK into systemic circulation and hence early peaking of CPK MB (<1ohours instead of 24h)
  4. Reperfusion arrhythmias(AIVR-Less specific) .Primary VF is now thought to be reperfusion related.
  5. Infract related artery(IRA) patency by coronary angiogram
  6. Distal TIMI flow/ myocardial blush score/ TIMI frame count

ECG ST regression ,  is a direct indicator  myocardial reperfusion   as the ST segment shifts  towards baseline ,  implies  of infarct current of injury . ST regression almost always correlate with good  recovery of LV function  in STEMI .

IRA patency , is an epicardial index , it  does not give information about myocardial blood flow . But ,  a good  distal TIMI flow generally indicates good reperfusion.This  again ,  is  not a fool proof  index,  as even many of the TIMI 3 flow patients  have severely damaged myocardium by echocardiography .

Final message

For the above reasons, one should always  make a distinction between successful lysis and successful reperfusion . Surprisingly ,  ECG  is  the gold standard for assessing successful reperfusion of myocardium ,  while CAG tell us  about epicardial patency and possibly reperfusion also.

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Failed thrombolysis is an important clinical  issue  in STEMI   as  successful thrombolysis  occurs  only in  about 50-60%  of pateints . The typical criteria to define failed thrombolysis is  the  regression  of less than 50% of sum total( or maximum)  ST elevation in infarct leads.

So what do you do for these patients with failed thrombolysis ?

It depends upon the patient’s symptom, hemodynamic stability, LV dysfunction .

They  should  get one of the following .

  1. Conservative medical management  with /without CAG
  2. Repeat thrombolysis
  3. Rescue PCI
  4. CABG

Medical management is  thought to be  too inferior a  management,  many of the interventional cardiologists  do  not want to talk about . But  , there is  an important  group of patients (Not often addressed in cardiology literature)  who  technically fulfill the criteria  of failed thrombolysis  , but   still  very  comfortable , asymtomatic  and in  class 1. These patients ,  have  a strong option for continuing the conservative management .

Repeat thrombolysis does not have a consistent effect but can  be  tried in some  stable patients. CABG  can be a genuine option in few

Rescue PCI

This terminology  has become  the  glamorous one since the  catchy word  rescue is tagged in the title  itself. For most of the cardiac physicians ,  this has become the default treatment modality.This is an unfortunate perception . What  one should realise   here is  , we are  tying to rescue  the myocardium and  the patient ,   not the patient’s coronary artery !

Opening up a coronary obstruction is not synonymous with rescue .

For rescue PCI ,  to be effective it should be done within the same time window as that for thrombolysis (ie within 6 or at the most  12 hours) .This timing  is  of vital importance  for the simple reason , there will be nothing to rescue after 12 hours as most of the muscle  would be  dead. Reperfusing a dead myocardium has been shown to be hazardous in some ,  as it converts a simple  infarct into a hemorrhagic  infarct.This softens the core of the infarct and  carry a risk of rupture. Further,   doing a complex emergency  PCI  ,  in  a thrombotic milieu with   presumed  long term  benefit ,  is  a  perfect recipe for a potential  disaster.

While the above statement may be seen as pessimistic view , the optimistic cardiologist would vouch for the“Curious  open artery hypothesis” .This theory simply states , whatever be the status  of the distal myocardium ( dead or alive !)   opening an obstruction in the concerened coronary artery  will benefit the patient !

It is  huge surprise , this concept   continues to  be alive even after  repeatedly shot dead by number of very good clinical trials (TOAT, CTO limb of COURAGE etc ).

The REACT study (2004) concluded undisputed benefit of rescue PCI for failed thrombolysis  , only if the rescue was done  within  5-10 hours after the onset of symptoms.The mean time for  pain-to-rescue PCI was 414 minutes (6.5hours)

Final  message

It is fashionable to talk about time window for thrombolyis but not for PCI  .The time window for rescue PCI is an redundant issue  for many  cardiologists ! . But ,  the fact of the matter is ,  it is not . . .

The concept of time window in rescue PCI  , is as important as ,   that of  thrombolysis. Please , think twice or thrice !  if some body suggest you to do a rescue PCI in a stable patient  ,  12hours after the index event .

Important note : This rule   does not (  or need  not  ) apply for patients in cardiogenic shock  or patient ‘s with ongoing iscemia and angina.

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No reflow is the terminology used primarily in cath labs where, even  after a successful opening and stenting  of a coronary artery the coronary blood flow is not  restored to myocardium . The point to be emphazised here is blood do cross  successfully the site of  the obstruction but fails to enter the muscle segment  to which the coronary artery is supplying. So the paradoxical situation of artery  being open but the  myocardium is closed to receive  blood flow  happens . This is termed as no -reflow.  Actually it is a  misnomer , and  ideally it should be called “no flow” because  normal distal flow  does not  occur (After PCI)  in the first instance  to get interrupted  later on  and be labeled as  no re-flow.  .The only positive effect of PCI in these situation is blood flow would have improved by few centimeters ie till it reaches  but falls short of myocardium . In fact no reflow , can be termed as  glorified and concealed  terminology  for  PCI failure . It needs urgent action . No reflow is also called as myocardial epicardial dissociation.

Mechanism of no reflow.

Curious case of open coronary artery and closed myocardium !

Coronary  microvascular plugging  is mainly  due to thrombus and atheromatous debri , myocardial  edema , microvascular spasm may also contribute.

Where can it occur ?

  • First described in cath lab, especially following primary angioplasty.
  • It can very  well happen following thrombolysis in STEMI.
  • Can occur in venous grafts.

How do you recognise no reflow?

In cath lab it will be self evident from the check angiogram. Some times it is less obvious and may  require, myocardial  blush score, TIMI frame  count, contrast echocardiography, PET scan etc. In post MI a very simple method to recognise this entity could be the observation of persistent ST elevation in ECG .

Treatment.

Extremely difficult. Almost every coronary vasodilator has been tried.(Nitrates, nicorandil, calcium blockers, etc).Success is less than 30%.  High pressure flushing with saline inside the coronary artery is advocated by some.Others believe it’s dangerous to do it. So prevention is the key. Avoid doing PCI in complex, thrombotic lesions. Use thrombus suction device like export catheter(Medtronic). Distal protective devices are double edged devices , useful only in experienced hands.

Unanswered question

What is the size of the particle (thrombotic and atheromatous  debri)  the   coronary microcirculation safely handle and push it into the coronary venous circulation and the coronary sinus for disposal ?

If we can lyse the thrombus into micro particles by some mechanism and make it traverse the coronary circulation this complication of microvascular  plugging can be treated and prevented .

What is the final message ?

  • No reflow is relatively common condition during emergency PCI done for ACS patients
  • More common in complex thrombotic lesions.
  • Can also  occur in STEMI
  • Treatment is often vexing . In fact the treatment of this condition is so difficult , it can be termed  almost synonymously with “Failed PCI” if flow is not restored.
  • Successful treatment of no- reflow  means not momentry restoration of  myocardial flow  by mechanical and pharmacological modalities ,but to maintain sustained myocardial   perfusion. This we realise, as patients who have had a no reflow during  a PCI, do not perform as well in the follow up  .
  • So prevention is the key.

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