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Cutting Off Blood Flow Limits Damage During Heart Attack
Date:2/26/2010

Repeatedly inflating blood pressure cuff led to 30 percent reduction in lost cardiac tissue, study found

FRIDAY, Feb. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Cutting off the flow of blood to the arm by repeatedly inflating a blood pressure cuff appears to reduce the amount of tissue damaged during a heart attack, a new Danish study shows.

This procedure somehow has a protective effect on heart muscle, by mechanisms that are not yet understood, the researchers said.

In a study of 142 patients being rushed to a hospital for treatment of severe heart attacks, the amount of heart tissue saved for those who got the treatment, called induced ischemia, was 30 percent greater than for those who didn't, according to a report in the Feb. 27 issue of The Lancet.

"For patients being transported to the hospital for acute myocardial infarction [heart attack], we inflated the blood pressure cuff for five minutes, relaxed it and repeated it four times," said study author Dr. Hans Erik Botker, a professor of cardiology at Aarhus University Hospital in Skejby.

While the initial results appear promising, induced ischemia is not being used routinely, Botker said. "We have demonstrated cardioprotection by decrease of the infarct [damaged heart muscle]," he explained. "But this is a surrogate marker. The question is whether it translates into clinical benefit for the patient. We have shown improvement during hospitalization, but it was not sustained for more than 30 days. Now, we need to follow more patients for longer times to clarify whether there is clinical benefit."

The induced ischemia trial is the latest in a long series of studies, first in animals and now in humans, which started with the observation that brief stoppages of blood flow can improve the ability of an organ to withstand stress, Botker said. He and his colleagues have been working with the technique since 2002, with animal experiments followed by trials
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