Reperfusion therapy is used as soon as possible following a heart attack to get the blocked artery open and to save as many heart muscle cells as possible. Reperfusion therapy, which may use balloon angioplasty, surgery, or clot dissolving drugs, is used in about 40% of heart attack patients, and its use is becoming increasingly common, Gorman said.
If acetaminophen does no harm, it could be used to relieve pain or reduce fever by people who have had heart attacks. Gorman and his team also wanted to know if acetaminophen could be used in conjunction with reperfusion therapy to salvage heart muscle cells damaged by the heart attack or to improve the heart's ventricular function.
The research was done within the context of a recent study on humans that reported an increased risk of death among those who had suffered a heart attack and subsequently took NSAIDs. Other studies have suggested that using NSAIDs may increase the risk of stroke and heart attacks, Gorman said.
Safe, but not protective
The researchers assigned eight sheep and 11 rabbits to a group that received acetaminophen, and an equal number of sheep and rabbits to a control group that did not receive any drug. The researchers surgically induced the heart attack and then restored blood flow – 30 minutes later for rabbits and 60 minutes later for sheep.
They found that acetaminophen had no effect on:
? amount of blood flow to the heart muscle
? how much heart muscle was saved
? blood pressure
? ventricular function
? heart rate
The results are at odds with a previous study using dogs, which concluded that acetaminophen reduced the area affected by a heart attack by 22%. Gorman said the difference may be due in part to the abundance of blood vessels dogs have compared to humans, rabbits and sheep.
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