Posts Tagged ‘Catholic University of Korea’

Cardiovascular Complications: Death from Reoperative Sternotomy after prior CABG, MVR, AVR, or Radiation; Complications of PCI; Sepsis from Cardiovascular Interventions

Author, Introduction and Summary: Justin D Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC


Article Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

The Curator recommends the e-Reader to read the following book on Surgical Complications:

“Essential Reading For Anyone Involved In Medicine”– –  2002

Cardiovascular Complications:

I. Reoperative Sternotomy after prior CABG, MVR, AVR, or radiation therapy

IIa. PCI, and

IIb. PAD Endovascular Interventions: Carotid Artery Endarterectomy

III. Incidence of Sepsis (circulation infection with serious consequences)

UPDATED 11/2/2013

As minimally interventional techniques improve, patients are offered a choice of invasive surgical remedies or less invasive procedures (video assisted, robotic, or percutaneous). The decision should not rest on the size of the scar or even the up front risk and discomfort, but rather should weigh all aspects of the risks and benefits. In addition to the risks and benefits for the current problem, one should also consider why the problem occurred and its likelihood of recurrence. Open chest surgery has a clear disadvantage when it comes to recurrences, as the scars from first surgery interfere with second surgery. Opening the chest (sternotomy) for a second or third time poses elevated risks analyzed herein. This article reviews data from major centers addressing the risks from repeat sternotomy and from minimally invasive cardiovascular surgeries. Any invasion of the body elevates risk of infection, which can lead to sepsis and possible death, so that risk is also addressed.

I. Risk of Injury During Repeat Sternotomy for CABG or Aortic Valve Replacement, Open Heart Surgery

II. Complications After Percutaneous Coronary intervention (PCI) and endovascular surgery for Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

  • (a) Post PCIand 
  • (b) PAD Endovascular Interventions: Carotid Artery Endarterectomy

III. Cardiac Failure During Systemic Sepsis

This article addresses specific reports of complications but does not cover numerous other complications that may occur, such as lung collapse, cardiogenic shock, blood loss, local infection, emboli, thrombus, stroke.

I. Risk of Injury During Open Heart Surgery after prior Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG), Aortic Valve Replacement, Mitral Valve Replacement, or Radiation Therapy 

Conclusions of a Study conducted @Mayo Clinic on Reoperative (Repeat) Sternotomy (opening of the chest through the sternum):

Chan B. Park, MD,a,b Rakesh M. Suri, MD,a Harold M. Burkhart, MD,a Kevin L. Greason, MD,a

Joseph A. Dearani, MD,a Hartzell V. Schaff, MD,a and Thoralf M. Sundt III, MDa

Identifying patients at particular risk of injury during repeat sternotomy: Analysis of 2555 cardiac reoperations

Authors Affiliations: From the Division of Cardiovascular Surgery,

a Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn; and the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery,

b St. Paul’s Hospital, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Korea.

Disclosures: None.

Read at the 90th Annual Meeting of The American Association for Thoracic Surgery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, May 1–5, 2010. Received for publication April 6, 2010; revisions received July 19, 2010; accepted for publication July 30, 2010.


Particular attention to protective strategies should be considered during reoperative sternotomy among patients with multiple previous sternotomies, previous mediastinal radiotherapy, and those with patent internal thoracic artery grafts. (J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2010;140:1028-35)

Of the 2555 patients,

  • 1537 (60%) had undergone previous coronary artery bypass grafting,
  • 700 (27%) previous mitral valve surgery, and
  • 643 (25%) previous aortic valve replacement (AVR).
  • 61 (2%) had prior mediastinal radiotherapy, and
  • 424 (17%) had more than one previous sternotomy.

 Injury Analysis – 9% events in 231 Patient in the study

In 231 patients, 267 injuries (9.0%) occurred.

Injury occurred

  • during sternotomy in 87 patients (33%) and
  • during prepump dissection in 135 (51%).

Hospital mortality rate was

6.5% among those without injury and

18.5% among those with injury (P < .001);

25% when injury occurred during sternal division

Injuries were more common

1. after previous coronary artery bypass grafting

  • 11% with previous coronary artery bypass grafting vs
  • 7% without, (P = .0012)

but not

  • previous aortic valve surgery,
  • previous mitral valve surgery, or
  • previous aorta surgery.

2.  Injury was also more common when the current operation was aortic valve replacement (AVR)

  • 10% with AVR vs
  • 8% without, (P = .04) or

3.  aorta surgery

  • 14% vs
  • 8% (P = .004).

Predicted injury by multivariate analysis –

Injury was an independent risk factor of hospital death (odds ratio, 2.6).

4.   previous radiotherapy (odds ratio, 4.9)

5.  a greater number of previous sternotomies (odds ratio 1.7), and

6.  a patent internal thoracic artery (odds ratio, 1.8)

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2010 Nov;140(5):1028-35. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2010.07.086.

Identifying patients at particular risk of injury during repeat sternotomy: analysis of 2555 cardiac reoperations.


Division of Cardiovascular Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.



A variety of protective strategies during repeat sternotomy been proposed; however, it remains unclear for which patients they are warranted.


We identified adults undergoing repeat median sternotomy for routine cardiac surgery at our institution between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 2007. The operative notes and perioperative outcomes were reviewed.


Of the 2555 patients, 1537 (60%) had undergone previous coronary artery bypass grafting, 700 (27%) previous mitral valve surgery, and 643 (25%) previous aortic valve replacement (AVR). Sixty-one patients (2%) had prior mediastinal radiotherapy, and 424 (17%) had more than one previous sternotomy. In 231 patients, 267 injuries (9.0%) occurred. Injury occurred during sternotomy in 87 patients (33%) and during prepump dissection in 135 (51%). The hospital mortality rate was 6.5% among those without injury and 18.5% among those with injury (P < .001); when injury occurred during sternal division, the mortality rate was 25%. Injuries were more common after previous coronary artery bypass grafting (11% with previous coronary artery bypass grafting vs 7% without, P = .0012) but not previous AVR, mitral valve surgery, or aortic surgery. Injury was also more common when the current operation was AVR (10% with AVR vs 8% without, P = .04) or aortic surgery (14% vs 8%, P = .004). On multivariate analysis, previous radiotherapy (odds ratio, 4.9), a greater number of previous sternotomies (odds ratio 1.7), and a patent internal thoracic artery (odds ratio, 1.8) predicted injury. Injury was an independent risk factor of hospital death (odds ratio, 2.6).


Particular attention to protective strategies should be considered during reoperative sternotomy among patients with multiple previous sternotomies, previous mediastinal radiotherapy, and those with patent internal thoracic artery grafts.

Copyright © 2010 The American Association for Thoracic Surgery. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.

Comment in

TABLE 2. Hospital mortality according to Timing of Injury

Timing Mortality rate with injury P value

  • Re-entry 19/76 (25.0%) <.001
  • Prepump 20/121 (16.5%) <.001
  • Cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB)  3/14 (21.4%) .05
  • Aortic CrossClamp (ACC 1/11) (9.1%) .85
  • Closing 5/17 (29.4%) <.001

TABLE 1. Preoperative patient characteristics

Characteristic No injury (n 1/4 2324) Injury (n 1/4 231) P value

Age (y) 66.9  12.4 67.7  11.5 .509

Men 1583 (68.1%) 167 (72.3%) .192

Diabetes mellitus 499 (21.5%) 61 (26.4%) .084

Hypertension 1536 (66.2%) 158 (68.4%) .490

Hypercholesterolemia 1656 (71.4%) 171 (74.0%) .395

Myocardial infarction 633 (27.3%) 68 (29.4%) .480

Congestive heart failure 758 (32.6%) 89 (38.5%) .069

NYHA .064

I-II 492 (21.2%) 37 (16.0%)

III-IV 1830 (78.8%) 184 (84.0%)

Previous operation No injury (n 1/4 2324) Injury (n 1/4 231) P value

CABG 1375 (59.2%) 162 (70.1%) .001

Aortic valve surgery 586 (25.2%) 57 (24.7%) .857

Mitral valve surgery 645 (27.8%) 55 (23.8%) .200

Tricuspid valve surgery 64 (2.8%) 9 (3.9%) .320

Aorta surgery 167 (7.2%) 20 (8.7%) .413

Current operation No injury (n 1/4 2324) Injury (n 1/4 231) P value

CABG 897 (38.6%) 104 (45.0%) .056

Aortic valve surgery 1020 (43.9%) 118 (51.1%) .036

Mitral valve surgery 821 (35.3%) 80 (34.6%) .833

Tricuspid valve surgery 414 (17.8%) 52 (22.5%) .078

Aortic surgery 232 (10.0%) 37 (16.0%) .004


The results of the present study have confirmed the significant risk of cardiovascular injury during reoperative cardiac surgery. The death rate from such injury can be 10-30%, particularly  when occurring during division of the sternum. These risks are greatest among patients with multiple previous sternotomies or prior chest radiotherapy.

Current PROTOCOL at Virginia University, now suggested to be considered for adoption @Mayo Clinic:

The Mayo Clinic’s Authors write: Our findings are more consistent with those reported by Roselli and colleagues.2 The explanation of these institutional differences is unclear, although a number of practice differences are likely present between these institutions in terms of both patient substrate and surgical practice. Compared with the series from the University of Virginia, the Mayo series we have reported represents a greater percentage of total cases performed at the institution (13.5% vs 7.8%), with a somewhat greater percentage of those reoperations being for CABG (41% vs 60%). In the Mayo series, a lower percentage were first-time repeat sternotomies (83% vs 90%) and a greater percentage were the fourth time or more (2.7% vs 1.1%).

The incidence of previous radiotherapy in the University of Virginia series was not reported.

It is also unclear to what degree the differences in surgical practice, including the role of the assistant surgeons in performing the repeat sternotomy, could account for these differences. In the present retrospective study, we were unable to demonstrate an effect of experience or expertise in either the occurrence of injury or the outcome. However, it is clear to all practicing surgeons that, when injury occurs, the judgment and expertise of the operating surgeon is critical to expeditious institution of CPB or other ‘‘rescue’’ maneuvers.

Perhaps of more practical value and broad applicability, however, is the standardized approach to repeat sternotomy advocated by the group at the University of Virginia, including routine preoperative CT scanning if the procedure is the third or fourth sternotomy and insertion of a femoral arterial line by which emergent percutaneous arterial inflow cannulation can be accomplished, if necessary. In their series, emergent institution of CPB using the femoral route was instituted in 1.8% of reoperative patients, constituting 19% of the patients with injury. Most notably, in their series, no deaths occurred among these patients. Serious consideration should be given to adopting such protocols.

Our high mortality rate associated with SVG injury during sternotomy, however, supports the  recommendation by others to carefully assess the course of bypass grafts by preoperative angiography. Routine preoperative CT imaging of all patients with more than one previous sternotomy has been advocated by Morishita and colleagues,3 with a demonstrable reduction in operative complications. Roselli and colleagues2 identified a lack of preparative imaging as the most common ‘‘lapse’’ in the preventive strategy among patients with injury. Our data suggest that CT scanning might be particularly helpful in the subset of patients with multiple previous sternotomies or radiotherapy and would support the institution of a policy of routine scanning for these patients.

FIGURE 1. Hospital mortality according to emergent cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery c November 2010, pp. 1032

TABLE 5. Postoperative results

No injury (n 1/4 2324) —  Injury (n 1/4 231) — P value

Postoperative transfusion (U)

PRCs 4.5  7.2 6.5  8.9 .046

ICU stay (h) 102.3  228.6 146.3 +/- 346.9 <.001

Reoperation for bleeding 127 (5.5%) 21 (9.1%) .024

Sepsis 86 (3.7%) 16 (6.9%) .017

Stroke 56 (2.4%) 11 (4.8%) .033

Prolonged ventilation 505 (21.7%) 97 (42.0%) <.001

Pneumonia 123 (5.3%) 25 (10.8%) <.001

ARDS 32 (1.4%) 8 (3.5%) .015

Postoperative renal failure 237 (10.2%) 51 (22.1%) <.001

Multisystem failure 45 (1.9%) 13 (5.6%) <.001

Perioperative MI 9 (0.4%) 2 (0.9%) .289

Hospital death 151 (6.5%) 43 (18.6%) <.001


IABP, intra-aortic balloon pump; ICU, intensive care unit; ARDS, acute respiratory

distress syndrome; MI, myocardial infarction.

The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery c November 2010, pp. 1032

Independent predictors for injury during repeat median sternotomy

The structures injured and the timing of injury in our study were similar to those reported by Roselli and colleagues.2  Bypass grafts were the most commonly injured and, perhaps in contrast to expectations, most injuries occurred during dissection, not during sternal division. Unlike their study, however, we found injury during sternal division to carry a greater mortality risk. We observed a remarkably high mortality rate associated with injury to the right ventricle, as did Roselli and colleagues.2  This may be particularly true in the presence of pulmonary hypertension, when attempts to repair the injury are hampered by inadequate access, progressive tearing of the ventricle secondary to traction injury, and what can be a relatively thin and friable free wall. The incidence of injury to the Internal thoracic artery (ITA) in our series (4.9%) was comparable to the 4.4%–5.3% reported by other investigators.11-14 Because the ITA was damaged more often during prepump dissection (20.7%) than during re-entry (11.5%), these data support the trend to avoid dissecting and isolating the ITA during AVR after previous CABG.12,13


1. On the basis of these data, we would advocate preoperative axial CT imaging to define the proximity of cardiovascular structures to the sternum of patients who have undergone more than one previous sternotomy and those who have undergone radiotherapy because these patients statistically have the greatest risk of injury.

2. We would also advocate considering percutaneous or open access of the femoral vessels, if not the institution of CPB, before sternotomy in these same patients, as well as those with significant pulmonary hypertension.

3. Because injury is common during prepump dissection, we support a philosophy of leaving patent ITA grafts undisturbed by attempts to gain control during AVR after previous CABG.

4. Finally, given the mortality rate associated with graft injury, patients with previous CABG should be considered for graft angiography or high-resolution CT.


This is a very important study  on the Outcomes and the Complications involved in Cardiac Surgery @Mayo Clinic.

Study’s Objectives: A variety of protective strategies during repeat sternotomy been proposed; however, it remains unclear for which patients they are warranted.

Authors @Mayo Clinic reported:

We were unable to definitively assess the effect of any specific protective strategies on the incidence of injury. Because we do not have standardized or uniform prospective institutional policies in this regard, it was not possible to account for the confounding factor of the clinician’s judgment in the decision to use these strategies in particularly highrisk patients.

Our high mortality rate associated with saphenous vein graft (SVG) injury during sternotomy, however, supports the  recommendation by others to carefully assess the course of bypass grafts by preoperative angiography. Routine preoperative CT imaging of all patients with more than one previous sternotomy has been advocated by Morishita and colleagues,3 with a demonstrable reduction in operative complications.

The reader is advised to review another article Co-Curated by us on the following related study by Mayo Clinic researches, This article examines 10-year to 15-year survivals from arterial bypass grafts using arterial vs saphenous venous grafts.

CABG Survival in Multivessel Disease Patients: Comparison of Arterial Bypass Grafts vs Saphenous Venous Grafts

The conclusions in this article are:

In patients undergoing isolated coronary artery bypass graft surgery with LIMA to left anterior descending artery,

  • arterial grafting of the non-left anterior descending vessels conferred a survival advantage at 15 years compared with Saphenous Venous grafting (SVG).

It is still unproven whether these results apply to higher-risk subgroups of patients.

Related study

Coronary Artery Disease – Medical Devices Solutions: From First-In-Man Stent Implantation, via Medical Ethical Dilemmas to Drug Eluting Stents,


1. Sabik JF III, Blackstone EH, Houghtaling PL,Walts PA, LytleBW. Is reoperation

still a risk factor in coronary artery bypass surgery? Ann Thorac Surg. 2005;80:


2. Roselli EE, Pettersson GB, Blackstone EH, Brizzio ME, Houghtaling PL,

Lauck R, et al. Adverse events during reoperative cardiac surgery: Frequency,

characterization, and rescue. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2008;135:316-23.

3. Morishita K, Kawaharada N, Fukada J, Yamada A, Masaru T, Kuwaki K, et al.

Three or more median sternotomies for patients with valve disease: Role of computed

tomography. Ann Thorac Surg. 2003;75:1476-81.

4. Luciani N, Anselmi A, De Geest R, Martinelli L, Perisano M, Possati G. Extracorporeal

circulation by peripheral cannulation before redo sternotomy: Indications

and results. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2008;136:572-7.

5. Potter DD, Sundt TM III, Zehr KJ, Dearani JA, Daly RC, Mullany CJ, et al. Risk

of repeat mitral valve replacement for failed mitral valve prostheses. Ann Thorac

Surg. 2004;78:67-72.

6. Potter DD, Sundt TM III, Zehr KJ, Dearani JA, Daly RC, Mullany CJ, et al. Operative

risk of reoperative aortic valve replacement. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg.


7. Sundt TM III, Murphy SF, Barzilai B, Schuessler RB, Mendeloff EN,

Huddleston CB, et al. Previous coronary artery bypass grafting is not a risk factor

for aortic valve replacement. Ann Thorac Surg. 1997;64:651-7.

8. Ellman PI, Smith RL, Girotti ME, Thompson PW, Peeler BB, Kern JA, et al. Cardiac

injury during resternotomy does not affect perioperative mortality. JAm Coll

Surg. 2008;206:993-9.

9. Chang ASY, Smedira NG, Chang CL, Benavides MM, Myhre U, Feng J, et al.

Cardiac surgery after mediastinal radiation: Extent of exposure influences outcome.

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2007;133:404-13.

10. Schmuziger M, Christenson JT, Maurice J, Mosimann E, Simonet F, Velebit V.

Reoperative myocardial revascularization: An analysis of 458 reoperations and

2645 single operations. Cardiovasc Surg. 1994;2:623-9.

11. Gillinov AM, Casselman FP, Lytle BW, Blackstone EH, Parsons EM, Loop FD,

et al. Injury to a patent left internal thoracic artery graft at coronary reoperation.

Ann Thorac Surg. 1999;67:382-6.

12. Byrne JG, Karavas AN, Filsoufi F, Mihaljevic T, Aklog L, Adams DH, et al. Aortic

valve surgery after previous coronary artery bypass grafting with functioning

internal mammary artery grafts. Ann Thorac Surg. 2002;73:779-84.

13. Smith RL, Ellman PI, Thompson PW, Girotti ME, Mettler BA, Ailawadi G, et al.

Do you need to clamp a patent left internal thoracic artery—Left anterior descending

graft in reoperative cardiac surgery? Ann Thorac Surg. 2009;87:742-7.

14. Coltharp WH, Decker MD, Lea JWIV, Petracek MR, Glassford DM,

Thormas CS, et al. Internal mammary artery graft at reoperation: Risks, benefits,

and methods of preservation. Ann Thorac Surg. 1991;52:225-9.

15. O’Brien MF, Harrocks S, Clarke A, Garlick B, Barnett AG. How to do safe sternal

reentry and the risk factors of redo cardiac surgery: A 21-year review with

zero major cardiac injury. J Cardiac Surg. 2002;17:4-13.

16. Klein G. Naturalistic decision making. Human Factors. 2008;50:456-60.

II. Complications After Percutaneous Coronary intervention (PCI) and endovascular surgery for Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

(a) after prior PCI, and

(b) after prior PAD Endovascular Interventions: Carotid Artery Endarterectomy

II(a)  PCI  After Prior PCI – Major occurring Complications include the following:


  • Hematoma (a firm collection of blood greater than 2 cm around or in the proximity of the access site).
  • Pseudoaneurysm / dissection,
  • A-V fistula and ischemic leg were also considered along with
  • Retroperitoneal bleed. Retroperitoneal bleeding was defined by any amount of bleeding in the retroperitoneum diagnosed by computer tomography.
  • Inflammation of the Lower extremity on the side of the access site to the femoral artery

UPDATED 11/2/2013


Impact of Intra-procedural Stent Thrombosis during Percutaneous Coronary Intervention: Insights from the CHAMPION PHOENIX Trial ONLINE FIRST

Philippe Généreux, MD1; Gregg W. Stone, MD1; Robert A. Harrington, MD4; C. Michael Gibson, MD5; Ph. Gabriel Steg, MD6; Sorin J. Brener, MD10; Dominick J. Angiolillo, MD, PhD11; Matthew J. Price, MD12; Jayne Prats, PhD13; Laura LaSalle, MPH2; Tiepu Liu, MD, PhD12; Meredith Todd, B.Sc12; Simona Skerjanec, Pharm.D12; Christian W. Hamm, MD14; Kenneth W. Mahaffey, MD4; Harvey D. White, DSc15; Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH16
J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013;():. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2013.10.022


Objective  We sought to evaluate the clinical impact of intra-procedural stent thrombosis (IPST), a relatively new endpoint.

Background  In the prospective, double-blind, active-controlled CHAMPION PHOENIX trial, cangrelor significantly reduced periprocedural and 30-day ischemic events in patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), including IPST.

Methods  An independent core laboratory blinded to treatment assignment performed a frame-by-frame angiographic analysis in 10,939 patients for the development of IPST, defined as new or worsening thrombus related to stent deployment anytime during the procedure. Adverse events were adjudicated by an independent, blinded clinical events committee.

Results  IPST developed in 89 patients (0.8%), including 35/5470 (0.6%) and 54/5469 (1.0%) in the cangrelor and clopidogrel arms, respectively (OR [95%CI] = 0.65 [0.42,0.99], p=0.04). Compared to patients without IPST, IPST was associated with a marked increase in composite ischemia (death, myocardial infarction [MI], ischemia-driven revascularization, or new onset out-of-lab stent thrombosis [ARC]) at 48 hours and at 30 days (29.2% vs. 4.5% and 31.5% vs. 5.7%, P<0.0001 for both). After controlling for potential confounders, IPST remained a strong predictor of all adverse ischemic events at both time points.

Conclusion  In the large-scale CHAMPION PHOENIX trial, the occurrence of IPST was strongly predictive of subsequent adverse cardiovascular events. The potent intravenous ADP antagonist cangrelor substantially reduced IPST, contributing to its beneficial effects at 48 hours and 30 days.

Clinical trial info  CHAMPION PHOENIX; NCT01156571

Bleeding and Vascular Complications at the Femoral Access Site Following Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI): An Evaluation of Hemostasis Strategies


Dale R. Tavris, MD, MPH1, Yongfei Wang, MS2, Samantha Jacobs, BS1, Beverly Gallauresi, MPH, RN1, Jeptha Curtis, MD2, John Messenger, MD3, Frederic S. Resnic, MD, MSc4, Susan Fitzgerald, MS, RN5

Authors Affiliation

From the 1US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Silver Spring, Maryland, 2Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, 3University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 4Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, and 5the American College of Cardiology, Bethesda, Maryland.

Abstract: Background. Previous research found at least one vascular closure device (VCD) to be associated with excess vascular complications, compared to manual compression (MC) controls, following cardiac catheterization. Since that time, several more VCDs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This research evaluates the safety profiles of current frequently used VCDs and other hemostasis strategies. Methods. Of 1089 sites that submitted data to the CathPCI Registry from 2005 through the second quarter of 2009, a total of 1,819,611 percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) procedures performed via femoral access site were analyzed. Assessed outcomes included bleeding, femoral artery occlusion, embolization, artery dissection, pseudoaneurysm, and arteriovenous fistula. Seven types of hemostasis strategy were evaluated for rate of “any bleeding or vascular complication” compared to MC controls, using hierarchical multiple logistic regression analysis, controlling for demographic factors, type of hemostasis, several indices of co-morbidity, and other potential confounding variables. Rates for different types of hemostasis strategy were plotted over time, using linear regression analysis.Results. Four of the VCDs and hemostasis patches demonstrated significantly lower bleeding or vascular complication rates than MC controls: Angio-Seal (odds ratio [OR], 0.68; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.65-0.70); Perclose (OR, 0.54; CI, 0.51-0.57); StarClose (OR, 0.77; CI, 0.72-0.82); Boomerang Closure Wire (OR, 0.63; CI, 0.53-0.75); and hemostasis patches (OR, 0.70; CI, 0.67-0.74). All types of hemostasis strategy, including MC, exhibited reduced complication rates over time. All trends were statistically significant except one. Conclusions. This large, nationally representative observational study demonstrated better safety profiles for most of the frequently used VCDs, compared to MC controls.

J INVASIVE CARDIOL 2012;24(7):328-334

Key words: hemostasis patch, mechanical compression, vascular closure device

Problems and Complications of the Transradial Approach for Coronary Interventions: A Review

The Journal of invasive Cardiology

Elizabeth Bazemore, BS and J. Tift Mann, III, MD

The benefits of the transradial approach have clearly been documented in numerous studies in the past ten years.1–9 Access site bleeding complication rates are lower and early ambulation results in a significant reduction in patient morbidity and a lower total procedure cost.3,4 Both patients undergoing the procedure and staff caring for these patients overwhelmingly prefer the transradial approach.10
As a result of these benefits, there has been an increase in the use of the radial artery for interventional procedures worldwide in the past several years. This experience has led to an understanding of the problems and complications that can result from the transradial approach. The purpose of the present manuscript is to review these issues.
Radial artery occlusion. Although this complication is a major concern, the consequences of radial artery occlusion are usually benign. The dual blood supply to the hand is an extremely protective mechanism (Figure 1). Hand ischemia with necrosis has occurred following prolonged cannulation of the radial artery for hemodynamic monitoring in critically ill patients; however, this complication has not been reported thus far after transradial coronary procedures.
The absence of ischemic complications is largely the result of the original recommendation by Kiemeneij that the transradial procedure be performed only in patients with a documented patent ulnar artery and palmar arch.1 This has traditionally been evaluated using the Allen’s test, but ultrasound, Doppler, and plethysmography prior to the procedure are more accurate methods.11
Plethysmography is probably the simplest and most effective method. A pulse oximetry test is performed with the probe placed on the patient’s thumb (Figure 2). The persistence of waveform and high oximetry readings after digital occlusion of the radial artery is very strong evidence that the patient will have sufficient collateral flow to prevent hand ischemia if the radial artery should become occluded as a result of the procedure. Barbeau has demonstrated the reappearance of the waveform and a high oximetry reading two minutes after initial negative results.11 This delayed recruitment of collaterals may be an additional explanation for the absence of hand ischemia with radial occlusion.
Several variables influence the incidence of radial artery occlusion. Adequate anticoagulation is extremely important. This is usually not an issue in patients undergoing interventional procedures, but the incidence of radial occlusion was as high as 30% in patients receiving only 1,000 units of heparin during diagnostic catheterization.12 The incidence of radial occlusion is reduced significantly by administering at least 5,000 units of heparin during the procedure.12,13 Due to this risk of radial occlusion, we tend to reserve the use of the radial artery for interventional procedures and “look-see” diagnostic catheterization. Elective diagnostic catheterizations are performed transradially only when there is an increased risk of femoral complications.
Catheter size has been shown to be an important predictor of post-procedure radial artery occlusion. Saito has studied the ratio of the radial artery internal diameter to the external diameter of the arterial sheath.14 The incidence of occlusion was 4% in patients with a ratio of greater than 1, as compared to 13% in those with a ratio of less than 1. Radial procedures have traditionally been performed using 6 Fr catheters, and most patients have an internal radial artery diameter larger than the 2.52 mm external 6 Fr sheath diameter.14 The incidence of radial occlusion following 6 Fr procedures is less than 5%, but the rate increases with larger sheath sizes.4,13 Virtually all interventional procedures can now be performed through large-bore, 6 Fr guide catheters, and larger-sized catheters are rarely necessary. For straightforward procedures, 5 Fr guide catheters may be utilized and are particularly useful in smaller women.
When the radial artery is utilized for hemodynamic monitoring in critically ill patients, the incidence of radial occlusion is significantly higher in patients with cannulation times greater than 24 hours, as compared to those under 20 hours.15 Since catheters are virtually always removed at the conclusion of a catheterization or interventional procedure, the time of cannulation may not be a factor. However, prolonged post-procedure compression times, particularly with high pressure using a mechanical device, may be a factor. We use sufficient pressure only to achieve hemostasis and try to remove the device as quickly as possible. Even in patients with intensive anticoagulation, it is rarely necessary to maintain mechanical compression for longer than one to two hours. A compression dressing using non-occlusive pressures can then be applied.
In summary, post-procedure radial occlusion occurs only in a small percentage of patients and is virtually always asymptomatic because of the dual blood supply to the hand. Patients with generalized vascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and those undergoing repeat procedures are more susceptible. The incidence can be minimized with appropriate anticoagulation, proper sheath selection, and avoiding prolonged high-pressure compression following the procedure.
Non-occlusive radial artery injury. Recent studies have demonstrated that permanent radial artery injury without occlusion may occur following transradial intervention in some patients. Mean radial artery internal diameter as measured by ultrasound was smaller in patients undergoing repeat transradial interventional procedures as compared to the initial procedure.16 This smaller diameter was not present on the day following the procedure, but developed during a mean follow up of 4.5 months. Wakeyama et al. demonstrated with intravascular ultrasound that this progressive narrowing is due to intimal hyperplasia, presumably induced by trauma from the cannulation sheath or catheter.17 The studies in our laboratory show that this hyperplasia is usually segmental rather than diffuse and is not present in all patients with a previous transradial procedure (Figure 3). The incidence of subsequent intimal hyperplasia in patients undergoing radial procedures is yet to be determined.
The ramifications of this injury are important not only in patients undergoing repeat interventional procedures, but also in patients in whom the radial artery may be used as a conduit for coronary artery bypass surgery. At our center, this is not an issue as most procedures are performed from the right radial artery and surgeons use the left radial artery for bypass graft purposes. At present, it would seem prudent not to use a radial artery that previously has been used for a catheterization as a bypass graft.
Radial artery spasm. Much of the morbidity of the transradial procedure is related to vasospasm induced by the introduction of a sheath or catheter into the radial artery. The vessel has a prominent medial layer that is largely dominated by alpha-1 adenoreceptor function.18 Thus, increased levels of circulating catecholamines are a cause of radial artery spasm. Local anesthesia and adequate sedation to control anxiety during catheter insertion are important preventative measures.
It has been demonstrated in isolated radial artery ring segments that nitroglycerin and verapamil are effective agents in preventing arterial spasm.19 Indeed, a vasodilator cocktail consisting of 3–6 mg of verapamil injected intra-arterially prior to sheath insertion is extremely effective in preventing radial artery spasm. The effect of the drug is immediate and significant arterial dilatation can be seen within minutes of its administration (Figure 4).
Intra-arterial verapamil and nitroglycerin have virtually eliminated vasospasm as a cause of significant morbidity of the procedure. It is now possible to perform transradial procedures using short sheaths and arm discomfort generally occurs only in patients with very small or tortuous radial arteries, particularly if guide catheter manipulation is excessive.
Spasm distal to the access site may be a cause of access failure. Occasionally, guide wire or guide catheter induced focal spasm may occur in a tortuous segment. Angiographic visualization of these areas is important as they generally respond to repeat verapamil administration and can be traversed with an angled hydrophilic coated guide wire. A soft-tipped coronary guide wire may also be used to cross these areas (Figure 5).
Sheath-induced spasm is also minimized by the use of sheaths with hydrophilic coating. Kiemeneij has documented that both patient discomfort and the force required to remove a sheath as measured by an automatic pull-back device was significantly less with hydrophilic coated sheaths as opposed to non-coated sheaths.20
Local access bleeding. The most important benefit of transradial procedures is the elimination of access site bleeding complications.1–4 The radial artery puncture site is located over bone and can easily be compressed with minimal pressure. Thus, bleeding from the radial access site can virtually always be prevented. Although manual pressure from an experienced operator is the ideal method to obtain hemostasis, several compression devices have been developed in an attempt to maximize operator and staff efficiency. Local hematomas may occur as a result of improper device application or device failure. It is important to emphasize that compression of the radial artery both proximally and distally to the puncture site must be performed because of retrograde flow from the palmar arch collaterals.
Forearm hematoma. Bleeding may occur from a site in the radial artery remote from the access site. The most common cause is perforation of a small side branch by the guide wire in patients receiving a platelet glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitor (Figure 6). Avulsion of a small radial recurrent artery arising from a radial loop is another important cause of this syndrome.21,22 Hydrophilic guidewires preferentially select this small arterial remnant in patients with a radial loop and forceful advancement of the guide catheter can result in avulsion of the vessel. Radial artery perforation has been described in 1% of patients although in our experience the incidence is substantially lower. A low threshold to perform a radial artery arteriogram when any resistance to guide wire or catheter insertion is encountered will help prevent this complication.
Recognition of this bleeding remote from the access site is important as hemostatic pressure must be applied to an area other than the access site. Hemostasis is usually easily accomplished by the application of an Ace bandage to the forearm. A blood pressure sphygmomanometer may also be utilized. The latter is inflated to systolic pressure and then gradually released over a period of one to two hours. Sealing of a perforation with a long sheath is also an option, but this is rarely necessary.22
Compartment syndrome is the most dreaded complication of radial artery hemorrhage. A large hematoma causes hand ischemia due to pressure-induced occlusion of both the radial and ulnar arteries. Fasciotomy with hematoma evacuation must be performed as an emergency procedure to prevent chronic ischemic injury. This complication is rare, occurring only once in our early experience; it should always be preventable.

Access failure. Failure to cannulate the radial artery using a 20 gauge needle and a 0.025 mm straight Terumo guide wire occurs in less than 5% of patients with an experienced operator. The importance of adequate patient sedation and local anesthesia in the prevention of radial artery spasm has previously been emphasized. In addition, meticulous attention to detail is important as the probability of failure increases as the number of unsuccessful attempts to puncture the artery increases. It should be emphasized that the puncture site is proximal to the styloid process of the radius bone. The radial artery distally usually bifurcates and becomes less superficial and attempting to puncture the vessel too distally is a common cause of access failure (Figure 7).
The radial loop is the most common congenital anomaly of the radial artery and may be a cause of access failure. It occurs in 1–2% of patients and may be unilateral or bilateral.21 Wide loops can occasionally be traversed with hydrophilic guidewires and 5 Fr catheters without excessive patient discomfort.23 However, in most cases, it is preferable to consider an alternative access site.
Radial arteries that are smaller than 2 mm in diameter are difficult to access. These are generally seen in smaller women and patients with previous radial procedures. The use of a 5 Fr guide in this situation may be an option. However, complex or difficult procedures cannot be performed through a 5 Fr guide catheter.
Miscellaneous complications. Pseudoaneurysm formation may rarely occur at the radial artery access site. This is usually easily managed with thrombin injection and/or mechanical compression. However, surgery may be required. Radial artery avulsion due to intense spasm has been described but this complication should virtually never occur using contemporary techniques. Sterile abscesses rarely occur with the use of hydrophilic coated sheaths.24
Conclusion. The radial artery is an excellent access site for coronary interventions. Although technically more challenging with a definite learning curve, there are significant advantages to this approach. Complications are infrequent and many are preventable with careful technique.

J Invasive Cardiol. 2010 Apr;22(4):175-8.

Vascular complications after percutaneous coronary intervention following hemostasis with the Mynx vascular closure device versus the AngioSeal vascular closure device.


Department Cardiology, New York Medical College, Macy Pavilion, Valhalla, NY 10595, USA.


We investigated the prevalence of vascular complications after PCI following hemostasis in 190 patients (67% men and 33% women, mean age 64 years) treated with the AngioSeal vascular closure device (St. Jude Medical, Austin, Texas) versus 238 patients (67% men and 33% women, mean age 64 years) treated with the Mynx vascular closure device (AccessClosure, Mountain View, California).


Death, myocardial infarction or stroke occurred in none of the 190 patients (0%) treated with the AngioSeal versus none of 238 patients (0%) treated with the Mynx. Major vascular complications occurred in 4 of 190 patients (2.1%) treated with the AngioSeal versus 5 of 238 patients (2.1%) treated with the Mynx (p not significant). Major vascular complications in patients treated with the AngioSeal included removal of a malfunctioning device (1.1%), hemorrhage requiring intervention (0.5%) and hemorrhage with a loss of > 3g Hgb (0.5%). The major vascular complications in patients treated with the Mynx included retroperitoneal bleeding requiring surgical intervention (0.8%), pseudoaneurysm with surgical repair (0.8%) and hemorrhage with a loss of > 3g Hgb (0.4%). These complications were not significantly different between the two vascular closure devices (p = 0.77). Minor complications included hematoma > 5 cm (0.5%, n = 1) within the AngioSeal group, as well as procedure failure requiring > 30 minutes of manual compression after device deployment, which occurred in 7 out of 190 patients (3.7%) treated with the AngioSeal versus 22 of 238 patients with the Mynx (9.2%) (p = 0.033).


Major vascular complications after PCI following hemostasis with vascular closure devices occurred in 2.1% of 190 patients treated with the AngioSeal vascular closure device versus 2.1% of 238 patients treated with the Mynx vascular closure device (p not significant). The Mynx vascular closure device appears to have a higher rate of device failure.

Comment in

Z Kardiol. 2005 Jun;94(6):392-8.

Incications and complications of invasive diagnostic procedures and percutaneous coronary interventions in the year 2003. Results of the quality control registry of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Leitende Kardiologische Krankenhausarzte (ALKK).


Herzzentrum Ludwigshafen, Bremserstrasse 79, 67063 Ludwigshafen, Germany.



The ALKK registry contains about 20% of the invasive and interventional cardiological procedures performed in Germany.


In 2003 a total of 82,282 consecutive diagnostic invasive and 30,689 interventional procedures from 75 hospitals were centrally collected and analyzed.


The main indication for an invasive diagnostic procedure was coronary artery disease in 92.5% of cases, myocardial disease in 1.6%, impaired left ventricular function in 4.0%, valve disease in 4% and other indications in 1.9%. An acute coronary syndrome was present in 25% of the patients. The rate of severe complications in patients with a lone diagnostic invasive procedure was low (<0.5%). The indication for percutaneous coronary intervention (n=30,689) was stable angina in 44.1%, ST elevation myocardial infarction in 22.3%, non ST elevation myocardial infarction in 14.8%, unstable angina in 10.0%, silent ischemia in 2.2%, prognostic in 5.2% of patients. The majority of interventions were performed directly after the diagnostic procedure (n=23,887=78.6%). The intervention was successful in 94.6% of cases. Stent implantation was performed in 77.2%, with 1 stent in 88.4%, two stents in 7.6% and 3 or more stents in 3.3%. A drug-eluting stent was implanted in 3.6% of the cases. The complication rate after PCI was influenced by the indication for the intervention. The in-hospital mortality in patients with cardiogenic shock was 33%, while in patients with stable angina, silent ischemia and prognostic indication only 0.2% died.


There is an increase of invasive diagnostic and interventional procedures in patients with acute coronary syndromes, with 47% of PCIs performed in these patient. PCIs were performed in 75% of the cases directly after the diagnostic procedure. The rate of stent implantation seems to have reached a plateau at around 80%, while drug-eluting stents were implanted only in a minority of cases. The complication rate is mainly dependent on the clinical presentation of the patients and the indication for PCI.

Coronary arterial complications after percutaneous coronary intervention in Behçet’s disease

Authors: Kinoshita T, Fujimoto S, Ishikawa Y, Yuzawa H, Fukunaga S, Toda M, Wagatsuma K, Akasaka Y, Ishii T, Ikeda T

Published Date February 2013 Volume 2013:4 Pages 9 – 12


Published: 05 February 2013
Toshio Kinoshita,1 Shinichiro Fujimoto,Yukio Ishikawa,2 Hitomi Yuzawa,1 Shunji Fukunaga,1Mikihito Toda,3 Kenji Wagatsuma,3 Yoshikiyo Akasaka,2 Toshiharu Ishii,2 Takanori Ikeda1
1Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, 2Department of Pathology, 3Division of Interventional Cardiology, Toho University Faculty of Medicine, Ohta City, Tokyo, Japan

Abstract: Behçet’s disease is a multisystemic vascular inflammatory disease, but concurrent cardiac diseases, such as acute myocardial infarction, are rare. Several complications may arise after coronary intervention for coronary lesions that interfere with treatment, and the incidence of coronary arterial complications due to invasive therapy remains unclear. Further, the long-term outcomes in patients with Behçet’s disease after stenting for acute myocardial infarction have not been described. The present report describes a 35-year-old Japanese man with Behçet’s disease who developed acute myocardial infarction. A coronary aneurysm developed at the stenting site of the left anterior descending coronary artery, along with stenosis in the left anterior descending segment proximal to the site. Although invasive therapy was considered, medication including immunosuppressants was selected because of the high risk of vascular complications after invasive therapy. The coronary artery disease has remained asymptomatic for the 4 years since the patient started medication. This case underscores the importance of considering the incidence of coronary arterial complications and of conservative treatment when possible.

Keywords: Behçet’s disease, myocardial infarction, coronary arterial complications, percutaneous coronary intervention, immunosuppressants


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Frequency and Costs of Ischemic and Bleeding Complications After Percutaneous Coronary Interventions: Rationale for New Antithrombotic Therapy

Journal of Invasive Cardiology


Mauro Moscucci, MD

Recent advances in catheter technology and antithrombotic therapy have led to a continuous improvement in outcomes of percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). These improved outcomes have been associated with broadening of the indications for PCI, with an exponential growth in number of procedures performed, but they have also been paralleled by incremental procedure costs. The estimated costs of PCI currently range from $8,000–$13,000.1 With over 800,000 cases performed each year in the United States (US) alone, this represents over $10 billion annually for the US Healthcare System.2 Roughly half of these costs are incurred by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS, formerly known as the Health Care Financing Administration).3 Total costs of PCI include disposable equipment used during the procedure (balloons, catheters, stents, etc.), cardiac catheterization laboratory overhead and depreciation, nursing and pharmacy costs, laboratory costs and physician services. In addition, factors that have been found to be associated with increased PCI costs include the use of special devices such as atherectomy or vascular closure devices, the use of multiple stents, the use of platelet glycoprotein (GP) IIb/IIIa inhibitors, and the presence of certain patient demographic characteristics including advanced age, gender and other comorbidities.1,4,5 Finally, complications related to the procedure have been identified in several studies as the single most significant contributor to increased costs of PC.5–7

Methods to reduce the cost of PCI include re-use of balloon catheters,8 percutaneous revascularization performed at the same time as diagnostic catheterization,9 reduced anticoagulation, the use of new devices or pharmacological interventions to reduce restenosis and complications, and the use of competitive bidding for cardiac cath lab supplies.10 For example, the evolution of anticoagulation therapy in stented patients from a regime of post-procedural heparin and warfarin to one of thienopyridines and aspirin,11 and the subsequent reduction of length of stay from 4 days in 1995 to 2 days in 2000, have helped keep total procedure costs down.12 In addition, a reduction in complication rates appears to be a key target for cost reduction efforts. In support of this statement, in the economic assessment of the Evaluation of 7E3 for the Prevention of Ischemic Complications (EPIC) trial in high-risk patients, Mark et al. identified bleeding complications, urgent and non-urgent coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG), and urgent and non-urgent percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) as important correlates of incremental costs.7 Unfortunately, standard aggressive antithrombotic therapy aimed toward a reduction of ischemic complications is often associated with an increase in bleeding complications. In the analysis of the EPIC trial, the benefits of abciximab in decreasing procedure costs through a reduction of ischemic complications were offset by drug acquisition costs and by an increase in bleeding complications.7 Thus, with ischemic complications becoming more rare as a result of improvement in PCI technology and more aggressive antithrombotic therapy, bleeding has become a rather common and costly complication of PCI, with a blood transfusion estimated to add up to $8,000 to the cost of care for the PCI patient.13

Based on these premises, it appears that the next challenge in the care of PCI patients will be to determine how to continue to prevent ischemic complications without increasing the risk of bleeding. This paper examines the frequency of PCI complications in both recent clinical trials and actual practice, discusses the costs of complications, and explores improvements in patient management and particularly changes in anticoagulation therapy that might impact total costs of PCI.

Complication rates in clinical trials

Ischemic complications in clinical trials. Despite advances in PCI technology and adjunctive pharmacotherapy, data from clinical trials indicate that ischemic complications still occur in 5–15% of patients.14–19 Typically, clinical trials define ischemic complications as a combination of death, myocardial infarction (MI; both Q-wave and non-Q wave) and either urgent or any target vessel revascularization (TVR). Different definitions of MI or revascularization can make comparisons across trials difficult. However, comparisons may still be possible through the application of strict meta-analysis methodology. A recent meta-analysis combined data from 6 double-blind PCI trials conducted predominantly in North America between 1993 and 1998.20 A total of 16,546 patients were enrolled in these trials (Table 1). Protocols and case report forms for trials included in the analysis were compared to ensure reasonable consistency of study methods, patient management, data reporting and data structure. Integration of the databases from the trials enabled a direct comparison of key event rates at 7 days, using standard classifications and criteria for severity. The meta-analysis showed that the use of high-dose heparin (175 U/kg) was associated with significantly less frequent clinical ischemic events (8.1%) than lower doses of heparin (100 U/kg; 10.3%). In this same meta-analysis, event rates in patients treated with low-dose heparin (70 U/kg) plus a GP IIb/IIIa inhibitor was 6.5%.20 Although not included in this meta-analysis, it is worth noting that the incidence of death, MI and revascularization in the ESPRIT trial was 9.3% in patients treated with low-dose heparin alone (60 U/kg).21

Bleeding complications in clinical trials. In clinical trials of antiplatelet and anti-thrombotic therapy in PCI, bleeding complications are generally defined using either thrombolysis in myocardial infarction (TIMI)22 or global utilization of streptokinase or tPA outcomes (GUSTO)23 criteria (Table 2). Rates of major bleeding in clinical trials using these criteria are generally less than 2% (Table 3).14–19,21,24,25 However, these restrictive definitions may not capture all clinically significant bleeding. For example, neither the TIMI nor the GUSTO major bleeding definition includes the need for a blood transfusion as part of the criteria. Thus, a broader measure of bleeding using a combination of both major and minor bleeding defined by TIMI or GUSTO criteria appears more likely to be representative of bleeding rates in clinical practice.

In the meta-analysis of contemporary PCI trials, TIMI criteria were used to classify hemorrhagic events, permitting direct comparisons between trials. In the high-dose heparin group, the combination of TIMI major and minor bleeding occurred in 10.5% of patients compared with a rate of 10.7% in the low-dose heparin group, while the bleeding rate was 14.3% in patients receiving a combination of GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors and low-dose heparin.

As shown in Table 3, when both TIMI major and minor bleeding are combined in contemporary PCI trials, bleeding complications average 4–14%, depending on patient characteristics and the drug regime used. In addition, when transfusions are included in the definition, the frequency of bleeding complications increases substantially. For example, in NICE-3, bleeding complications were 10.5% when transfusions were included in the criteria, but only 2% of the patients experienced TIMI major bleeding.26

Notably, the only adjunctive anti-thrombotic agent shown to reduce both ischemic and bleeding complications in PCI is bivalirudin. In the Bivalirudin Angioplasty Trial,27 the risk of bleeding was decreased 62% in the bivalirudin group compared with high-dose heparin. The combined rate of TIMI major and TIMI minor bleeding in bivalirudin patients (n = 2,161) was found to be 4.3% in the meta-analysis of contemporary PCI trials with a corresponding ischemic event rate of 6.6%.20

Complications in practice

Ischemic complications in practice. Rates of ischemic complications in clinical practice are difficult to determine. Although several investigators have published data from multicenter databases, these data tend to be 3–5 years old by the time manuscripts are in print. Since trends in the published literature do show continued reduction in PCI complications over time, the frequency of complications noted in these publications may overestimate the actual rate of complications in clinical practice today. In addition, rates of complications can vary widely across institutions due to differences in practice patterns, definitions, operator skills and resource utilization. For example, in the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions (SCA&I) registry, stent use among laboratories varied from 29–95%.28 Others have found lower complication rates in patients whose procedure was performed by a high-volume operator or in a high-volume institution.29 We identified 6 published reports of PCI complications in clinical practice reporting a variety of ischemic outcomes.1,28–31

Saucedo et al. prospectively collected data on 900 patients undergoing successful elective stent placement in native coronary arteries between January 1994 and December 1995.30 The purpose of this study was to evaluate the incidence and long-term clinical consequences of patients with creatine kinase (CK) myocardial isoenzyme band (CK-MB) elevations after stenting. By design, all patients in this observational study had a successful procedure defined as an increase of > 20% in luminal diameter with final percent diameter stenosis of < 50%, without the occurrence of any major complications (death, Q-wave MI and CABG). Nevertheless, 26.4% of patients had CK-MB elevations 1–5 times the upper limit of normal (ULN) and 8.5% had CK-MB elevations > 5 times ULN. In total, 3.9% of patients required a repeat diagnostic catheterization for recurrent ischemia and 1.2% required urgent target vessel revascularization. In this study, patients requiring the use of GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors were excluded.

The Northern New England group (NNE) collected data on 14,498 patients undergoing PCI between 1994 and 1996.29 In this study, outcomes included the in-hospital occurrence of death; emergency CABG (eCABG) or non-eCABG; or new MI (defined as chest pain, diaphoresis, dyspnea or hypotension associated with the development of new Q-waves or ST-T wave changes and a rise in CK to at least twice normal with a positive CK-MB). Overall, death occurred in 1.2% of patients, CABG in 2.6% (0.8% eCABG and 1.8% non-eCABG), and MI in 2%. Stents were used in 22% of patients enrolled in this registry.

In the National Cardiovascular Network database (NCN), Batchelor et al. reported complications of PCI in 109,708 patients who underwent PCI between 1994 and 1997.31 In this observational study, in-hospital mortality was defined as the occurrence of death after the procedure, MI was defined as the appearance of new Q-waves in 2 contiguous leads on a 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) for up to 30 days post-PCI, and repeat revascularization was defined as the need for CABG or additional PCI prior to discharge. In this study, death occurred in 1.3% of patients, Q-wave MI in 1.4% and repeat revascularization in 4.5%. Half of the patients underwent stenting in this study. Notably, this database did not record myocardial enzymes or the use of GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors.

Aronow and colleagues observed outcomes in a cohort of consecutive registry patients undergoing coronary stent placement between 1995 and 1997.32 A total of 373 patients underwent PCI during this time period, with death occurring in 9 patients (2.4%), CABG in 3 (0.8%) and MI in 19 (5.1%, including both QWMI and NQWMI). Repeat diagnostic catheterization was performed in 3.2% of patients and repeat PCI in 0.8%.

The SCA&I registry evaluated outcomes in 16,811 patients undergoing either balloon angioplasty (n = 6,121) or stenting (n = 10,690) between July 1996 and December 1998.28 In this observational analysis, 12.9% of patients received a GP IIb/IIIa inhibitor, 87% of patients enrolled in the database underwent PCI between 1997 and 1998, and 60% of the stent patients were enrolled in 1998. Outcomes reported included in-hospital death (occurring at any time during the hospitalization) and eCABG, defined as CABG occurring immediately after PCI. Death occurred in 0.4% of patients and eCABG in 0.5%.

Finally, Cohen and others recorded in-laboratory complications in 26,421 patients at 70 different centers undergoing PCI in 1998.1 In-laboratory complications were rare, with death occurring in 0.17%, cardiac arrest in 0.32%, stroke in 0.03%, ventricular fibrillation or tachycardia in 0.94%, abrupt closure in 0.71%, and eCABG in 0.53%. Overall, 72% of patients received stents and 20% received GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors.

In addition to published reports of PCI complications, data from unpublished sources can be used to determine outcomes in a more contemporary cohort of patients undergoing PCI.33 The MQ-Profile (MQ-Pro) Database [Cardinal Information Corporation (CIC), Marlborough, Massachusetts] is maintained by CIC, which sells and distributes software to US acute-care hospitals for the collection of detailed clinical and administrative data. Data from 5,373 PCI procedures performed between July 1, 1998 and June 30, 1999 were obtained from the database using International Classification of Diseases 9th Edition (ICD-9) procedure codes for PCI (36.01, 36.02, 36.05). Demographic, clinical and economic data were collected on each patient using a combination of database retrieval and chart review. In this analysis, death was defined as discharge disposition of “deceased”, MI as the presence of ECG changes consistent with MI (new Q-waves or ST-segment changes) or an increase in CK-MB of at least 2 times the testing facility’s ULN. CABG was identified by the presence of ICD-9 procedure code 36.1 and repeat PCI by either code 36.01, 36.02, or 36.05. Failed PCI was defined by the term “failed PTCA” in chart notes (for patients without a previous history of PCI) and recurrent ischemia documented by ECG changes. Death occurred in 2.0% of patients, MI in 3.1%, CABG in 1.3% and repeat PCI in 5.5%. Translated into a combined endpoint similar to those used in clinical trials, the rate of death/MI/revascularization was 11.9%.

Data from these published and unpublished observations of contemporary PCI practice indicate that while in-laboratory ischemic complications are exceedingly rare, in-hospital ischemic complications still occur in a substantial number of patients. Using an approximation of outcomes from these published and unpublished reports, mortality averages 1%, Q-wave MI occurs in 2% of patients, NQWMI in 6%, CABG in 2% and repeat PCI occurs in 3–5% of patients. It is important to underscore that although most deaths following PCI are due to underlying comorbidities (i.e., acute MI, cardiogenic shock, etc.) rather than to the procedure itself, few deaths still occur as a complication of the procedure.34,35 Extrapolated to the estimated PCI population of 800,000 cases per year, then 8,000 people will die and 64,000 will experience an MI. In addition, approximately 16,000 will require CABG and as many as 40,000 will need a repeat PCI before hospital discharge.

II(b) PAD Endovascular Interventions: Carotid Artery Endarterectomy

  • Original Contributions

Medical Complications Associated With Carotid Endarterectomy

Stroke.1999; 30: 1759-1763  doi: 10.1161/​01.STR.30.9.1759

  1. Maurizio Paciaroni, MD;
  2. Michael Eliasziw, PhD;
  3. L. Jaap Kappelle, MD;
  4. Jane W. Finan, BScN;
  5. Gary G. Ferguson, MD;
  6. Henry J. M. Barnett, MD;
  7. for the North American Symptomatic Carotid Endarterectomy Trial (NASCET) Collaborators

+Author Affiliations

  1. From the John P. Robarts Research Institute (M.P., M.E., L.J.K., J.W.F., H.J.M.B) and the Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (M.E.) and Clinical Neurological Sciences (M.E., G.G.F., H.J.M.B.), University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.
  1. Correspondence to Dr H.J.M. Barnett, John P. Robarts Research Institute, PO Box 5015, 100 Perth Dr, London, ON N6A 5K8, Canada. E-mail


Background and Purpose—Carotid endarterectomy (CE) has been shown to be beneficial in patients with symptomatic high-grade (70% to 99%) internal carotid artery stenosis. To achieve this benefit, complications must be kept to a minimum. Complications not associated with the procedure itself, but related to medical conditions, have received little attention.

Methods—Medical complications that occurred within 30 days after CE were recorded in 1415 patients with symptomatic stenosis (30% to 99%) of the internal carotid artery. They were compared with 1433 patients who received medical care alone. All patients were in the North American Symptomatic Carotid Endarterectomy Trial (NASCET).

Results—One hundred fifteen patients (8.1%) had 142 medical complications: 14 (1%) myocardial infarctions, 101 (7.1%) other cardiovascular disorders, 11 (0.8%) respiratory complications, 6 (0.4%) transient confusions, and 10 (0.7%) other complications. Of the 142 complications, 69.7% were of short duration, and only 26.8% prolonged hospitalization. Five patients died: 3 from myocardial infarction and 2 suddenly. Medically treated patients experienced similar complications with one third the frequency. Endarterectomy was ≈1.5 times more likely to trigger medical complications in patients with a history of myocardial infarction, angina, or hypertension (P<0.05).

Conclusions—Perioperative medical complications were observed in slightly fewer than 1 of every 10 patients who underwent CE. The majority of these complications completely resolved. Most complications were cardiovascular and occurred in patients with 1 or more cardiovascular risk factors. In this selected population, the occurrence of perioperative myocardial infarction was uncommon.

Key Words:

The North American Symptomatic Carotid Endarterectomy Trial (NASCET) and the European Carotid Endarterectomy Trial showed unequivocal benefit of carotid endarterectomy (CE) in symptomatic patients with high-grade internal carotid artery (ICA) stenosis (70% to 99%).1 2 The parallel study dealing with symptomatic patients with moderate-grade stenosis (30% to 69%) showed benefits of CE only in a carefully selected group of patients.3 Currently, CE is the most common elective peripheral vascular procedure, which in 1997 was performed in ≈130 000 patients in the United States.4

Despite benefit in the long term, CE may cause complications either by the operation itself or by concomitant medical conditions. The challenge for the future is to reduce the perioperative risk as much as possible. The incidence and type of complications that are directly related to the surgical procedure have been the subject of many reports,5 6 7 8 910 whereas medical complications that are not directly caused by the procedure have received less attention. The aim of the present study is to describe the incidence and type of medical complications that occurred in patients randomized into NASCET and to determine their association with baseline risk factors.

Subjects and Methods

The methods of the NASCET have been described in detail elsewhere.1 11 Briefly, NASCET was a randomized clinical trial designed to compare the benefit of best medical therapy alone with best medical therapy plus CE in patients with recent transient or nondisabling neurological deficit caused by cerebral or retinal ischemia in the territory of the ICA. Among the exclusions were patients with recent history (6 months) of myocardial infarction, unstable angina pectoris, atrial fibrillation, recent congestive heart failure, and valvular heart disease. For inclusion, the ICA had to have a 30% to 99% stenosis as assessed by selective carotid angiography and to be technically suitable for CE. Baseline evaluations included a detailed medical history and complete physical and neurological examination.

Surgeons were invited to join NASCET if the center had a documented CE stroke and death rate of ≤6% in a minimum of 50 consecutive cases over a 2-year period. Surgery was completed at the earliest opportunity after randomization, and patients underwent a second complete physical and neurological examination 30 days after surgery. All medical and surgical complications that caused transient or permanent disability within the 30-day period were recorded.

Medical complications consisted of myocardial infarction (based on ECG and cardiac enzyme changes), arrhythmia (requiring antiarrhythmic medication), congestive heart failure, angina pectoris, hypertension (diastolic blood pressure >100 mm Hg requiring intravenous medication), hypotension (systolic pressure <90 mm Hg requiring administration of vasopressor agent), sudden death, respiratory problems (pneumonia, atelectasis, pulmonary edema, or exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), renal failure (doubling of preoperative urea and/or creatinine), depression, and confusion (requiring restraint). Complications were considered mild if they were transient and did not prolong hospital stay, moderate if they were transient but caused delay in hospital discharge, and severe if they were associated with permanent disability or death.

In the present study, patients were excluded from the analyses if they had serious complications that were directly attributable to the surgical procedure, such as those due to anesthesia, thrombosis at the operative site, wound hematomas requiring surgical intervention, or deficits from a vagus nerve injury interfering with swallowing. These surgical complications are described in detail elsewhere.12 For comparative purposes, a list of complications that occurred in the medically treated arm of NASCET was compiled for the 32-day period after randomization (ie, the 30-day period plus the average 2 days that lapsed from randomization to CE in the surgical arm). In both the surgical and medical arms, patients were censored at the time of a stroke, since the subsequent medical complications are commonly the result of the stroke.

Cox proportional hazards regression modeling was used to identify baseline factors that increased the risk of perioperative medical complications. Adjusted hazard rates and adjusted hazard ratios were used to summarize the results. The estimated hazard ratio (or relative hazard) is a measure of association that can be interpreted as a relative risk. Hazard ratios with corresponding probability value of <0.05 were considered statistically significant. Adjusted hazard rates were obtained from the regression model by using the mean value for a factor being adjusted.

The modeling strategy consisted of initially fitting a “full” model, which included all factors. A “final” model was determined by eliminating all factors that were not significantly predictive of the medical complications, using a backward selection approach. The “change-in-estimate” strategy was used to determine whether the remaining factors in the final model were independent risk factors. A factor was considered an independent risk factor if the change in hazard ratios between the full and final models was <10%.


A total of 1436 eligible patients were randomized to the surgical arm and 1449 to the medical arm of the NASCET. In the surgical arm, 21 patients were not operated on for various reasons.12 In the medical arm 16 patients crossed over to surgical therapy within 30 days, leaving 1433 patients for analysis. CE was performed in 1415 patients (328 patients with severe stenosis and 1087 with moderate stenosis). Of the 1415, 59 (4.2%) patients had serious surgical complications that excluded them from further analyses, and 115 (8.1%) had medical complications (Table 1). Of the 142 complications, 69.7% were mild, 26.8% were moderate, and 3.5% were severe. Twenty patients had ≥2 complications. No patient had pulmonary embolus, renal failure, or depression requiring medication. Cardiovascular disorders were >4 times as common as all other conditions combined. All 5 severe complications were fatal and were caused by cardiovascular disorders: 3 patients had fatal myocardial infarction, and 2 patients died suddenly. Of the patients with fatal myocardial infarction, 2 patients had massive myocardial infarctions on the day of surgery. In the other patient, CE was prolonged (7 hours) because of intraoperative occlusion of the ICA. Twenty-four hours after CE, the patient had a myocardial infarction followed by cardiac arrest, leaving the patient in a vegetative state. The patient died 2 months later. Two patients died suddenly on days 3 and 6 after CE, and both had a history of previous myocardial infarction. All patients with fatal medical complications were male, and all had multiple cardiovascular risk factors.


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  3. Barnett HJM, Taylor DW, Eliasziw M, Fox AJ, Ferguson GG, Haynes RB, Rankin RN, Clagett GP, Hachinski VC, Sackett DL, Thorpe KE, Meldrum HE, for the North American Symptomatic Carotid Endarterectomy Trial Collaborators. Benefit of carotid endarterectomy in patients with symptomatic moderate or severe stenosis. N Engl J Med. 1998;339:1415–1425.
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  17. Urbinati S, Di Pasquale G, Andreoli A, Lusa AM, Carini G, Grazi P, Labanti G, Passarelli P, Corbelli C, Pinelli G. Preoperative non-invasive coronary risk stratification in candidates for carotid endarterectomy. Stroke. 1994;25:2022–2027.
  18. Adams HP Jr, Brott TG, Crowell RM, Furlan AJ, Gomez CR, Grotta J, Helgason CM, Marler JR, Woolson RF, Zivin JA, Feinberg W, Mayberg M. Guidelines for the management of patients with acute ischemic stroke: a statement for healthcare professionals from a special writing group of the Stroke Council, American Heart Association. Stroke. 1994;25:1901–1914.
  19. Feinberg WM, Albers GW, Barnett HJ, Biller J, Caplan LR, Carter LP, Hart RG, Hobson RW II, Kronmal RA, Moore WS, Robertson JT, Adams HP, Mayberg M. Guidelines for the management of transient ischemic attacks: from the Ad Hoc Committee on Guidelines for the Management of Transient Ischemic Attacks of the Stroke Council of the American Heart Association. Circulation. 1994;89:2950–2965.
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Intraoperative use of dextran is associated with cardiac complications after carotid endarterectomy.

J Vasc Surg. 2013 Mar;57(3):635-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2012.09.017. Epub 2013 Jan 18.


Section of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.



Although dextran has been theorized to diminish the risk of stroke associated with carotid endarterectomy (CEA), variation exists in its use. We evaluated outcomes of dextran use in patients undergoing CEA to clarify its utility.


We studied all primary CEAs performed by 89 surgeons within the Vascular Study Group of New England database (2003-2010). Patients were stratified by intraoperative dextran use. Outcomes included perioperative death, stroke, myocardial infarction (MI), and congestive heart failure (CHF). Group and propensity score matching was performed for risk-adjusted comparisons, and multivariable logistic and gamma regressions were used to examine associations between dextran use and outcomes.


There were 6641 CEAs performed, with dextran used in 334 procedures (5%). Dextran-treated and untreated patients were similar in age (70 years) and symptomatic status (25%). Clinical differences between the cohorts were eliminated by statistical adjustment. In crude, group-matched, and propensity-matched analyses, the stroke/death rate was similar for the two cohorts (1.2%). Dextran-treated patients were more likely to suffer postoperative MI (crude: 2.4% vs 1.0%; P = .03; group-matched: 2.4% vs 0.6%; P = .01; propensity-matched: 2.4% vs 0.5%; P = .003) and CHF (2.1% vs 0.6%; P = .01; 2.1% vs 0.5%; P = .01; 2.1% vs 0.2%; P < .001). In multivariable analysis of the crude sample, dextran was associated with a higher risk of postoperative MI (odds ratio, 3.52; 95% confidence interval, 1.62-7.64) and CHF (odds ratio, 5.71; 95% confidence interval, 2.35-13.89).


Dextran use was not associated with lower perioperative stroke but was associated with higher rates of MI and CHF. Taken together, our findings suggest limited clinical utility for routine use of intraoperative dextran during CEA.

J Vasc Surg. 2008 Nov;48(5):1139-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2008.05.013. Epub 2008 Jun 30.

Factors associated with stroke or death after carotid endarterectomy in Northern New England.


Section of Vascular Surgery Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH 03765, USA.



This study investigated risk factors for stroke or death after carotid endarterectomy (CEA) among hospitals of varying type and size participating in a regional quality improvement effort.


We reviewed 2714 patients undergoing 3092 primary CEAs (excluding combined procedures or redo CEA) at 11 hospitals in Northern New England from January 2003 through December 2007. Hospitals varied in size (25 to 615 beds) and comprised community and teaching hospitals. Fifty surgeons reported results to the database. Trained research personnel prospectively collected >70 demographic and clinical variables for each patient. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to generate odds ratios (ORs) and prediction models for the 30-day postoperative stroke or death rate.


Across 3092 CEAs, there were 38 minor strokes, 14 major strokes, and eight deaths (5 stroke-related) < or =30 days of the index procedure (30-day stroke or death rate, 1.8%). In multivariate analyses, emergency CEA (OR, 7.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8-26.9; P = .004), contralateral internal carotid artery occlusion (OR, 2.8; 95% CI, 1.3-6.2; P = .009), preoperative ipsilateral cortical stroke (OR, 2.4; 95% CI, 1.1-5.1; P = .02), congestive heart failure (OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1-2.4, P = .03), and age >70 (OR, 1.3; 95% CI, 0.8-2.3; P = .315) were associated with postoperative stroke or death. Preoperative antiplatelet therapy was protective (OR, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2-0.9; P = .02). Risk of stroke or death varied from <1% in patients with no risk factors to nearly 5% with patients with > or =3 risk factors. Our risk prediction model had excellent correlation with observed results (r = 0.96) and reasonable discriminative ability (area under receiver operating characteristic curve, 0.71). Risks varied from <1% in asymptomatic patients with no risk factors to nearly 4% in patients with contralateral internal carotid artery occlusion (OR, 3.2; 95% CI, 1.3-8.1; P = .01) and age >70 (OR, 2.9; 95% CI, 1.0-4.9, P = .05). Two hospitals performed significantly better than expected. These differences were not attributable to surgeon or hospital volume.


Surgeons can “risk-stratify” preoperative patients by considering the variables (emergency procedure, contralateral internal carotid artery occlusion, preoperative ipsilateral cortical stroke, congestive heart failure, and age), reducing risk with antiplatelet agents, and informing patients more precisely about their risk of stroke or death after CEA. Risk prediction models can also be used to compare risk-adjusted outcomes between centers, identify best practices, and hopefully, improve overall results.

III. Cardiac Failure During Systemic Sepsis


The patient with sepsis has severely altered physiology in a number of ways, which can influence cardiac function. Firstly, there is a

  • Loss of intravascular volume due to excessive third space loss that results in a decrease in preload. Systemic vascular resistance is decreased which results in a fall in afterload. In addition,
  • end diastolic volumes often increase and
  • ejection fraction falls. However, many of these changes are overcome by an
  • increase in heart rate that may result in an increase in cardiac output. However, it should be remembered that even in the presence of high cardiac outputs it is usually always possible to demonstrate
  • ventricular dysfunction in patients with sepsis. Echocardiographic studies consistently confirm that there is decreased left ventricular systolic function in humans with sepsis.

In addition, there have been many studies in animals and a few in humans which have confirmed the presence of

  • diastolic dysfunction – particularly in those patients that go on to die from sepsis.

In the presence of adequate fluid resuscitation there is an increase in end diastolic volume and this is probably a normal response to a decrease in contractility. However, in the non-survivors of sepsis there is a normal or low end diastolic volume that is the result of a decrease in ventricular diastolic compliance. Thus, there is a decreased end diastolic volume at the same filling pressure.

During sepsis, a

  • decrease in contractility results in a shift to the right of the end-systolic pressure / volume curve and if this is not compensated for results in a
  • decrease in stroke volume and cardiac output.

When patients with sepsis are appropriately fluid resuscitated there is an

  • increase in end diastolic pressure that increases stroke volume. In addition, the
  • decrease in afterload will also increase stroke volume and will prevent a decrease in ejection fraction.

Alas, because there is a decrease in systolic contractility it would be expected that there would also be a decrease in diastolic stiffness which would allow cardiac output to be maintained despite the relatively low filling pressures. However, if this diastolic compliance change does not occur (as in the nonsurvivors of sepsis) then it is apparent  that the ability of the ventricle to generate a stroke volume is impaired at both ends of the curve.

The cause of the altered cardiac function in sepsis remains unknown although there are many theoretical explanations. Clearly, one of the most important mechanisms which can be readily corrected is hypovolaemia.

  • Myocardial oedema may contribute to a decrease in contractility.
  • Increased circulating catecholamines can result in a decrease in diastolic compliance, particularly important since these agents are often used to improve myocardial contractility.
  • Increased intrathoracic pressure caused by positive pressure ventilation can also result in decreased diastolic compliance. In addition, many of the
  • mediators of the inflammatory response, including products of activated endothelial cells and polymorphonuclear leucocytes (e.g. nitric oxide, tumour necrosis factor and interleukins 1 and 2) have all been postulated as negative inotropes and negative lusitropes.

Another, as yet, unidentified agent which is believed to be released from the splanchnic bed –

  • myocardial depressant factor – is postulated to play a role.

Treatments aimed at correcting the effects of these various inflammatory mediators may be eventually found but until these approaches have been proven to be beneficial the septic patient will continue to be managed according to the physiological principles outlined by Starling.

Sepsis and the Heart – Cardiovascular Involvement in General Medical Conditions

  1. M.W. Merx, MD;
  2. C. Weber, MD

+Author Affiliations

  1. From the Department of Medicine (M.W.M.), Division of Cardiology, Pulmonary Diseases and Vascular Medicine and the Institute of Molecular Cardiovascular Research (IMCAR) at the University Hospital (C.W.), RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany.
  1. Correspondence to Marc W. Merx, MD, Medizinische Klinik I, Universitätsklinikum der RWTH Aachen, Pauwelstraße 30, 52057 Aachen, Germany (, or Christian Weber, MD, Institut für Kardiovaskuläre Molekularbiologie, Universitätsklinikum der RWTH Aachen, Pauwelstraße 30, 52057 Aachen, Germany (e-mail
Circulation.2007; 116: 793-802doi: 10.1161/​CIRCULATIONAHA.106.678359


Sepsis is generally viewed as a disease aggravated by an inappropriate immune response encountered in the afflicted individual. As an important organ system frequently compromised by sepsis and always affected by septic shock, the cardiovascular system and its dysfunction during sepsis have been studied in clinical and basic research for more than 5 decades. Although a number of mediators and pathways have been shown to be associated with myocardial depression in sepsis, the precise cause remains unclear to date. There is currently no evidence supporting global ischemia as an underlying cause of myocardial dysfunction in sepsis; however, in septic patients with coexistent and possibly undiagnosed coronary artery disease, regional myocardial ischemia or infarction secondary to coronary artery disease may certainly occur.

A circulating myocardial depressant factor in septic shock has long been proposed, and potential candidates for a myocardial depressant factor include

  • cytokines,
  • prostanoids, and
  • nitric oxide, among others.
  • Endothelial activation and
  • induction of the coagulatory system also contribute to the pathophysiology in sepsis.

Prompt and adequate antibiotic therapy accompanied by surgical removal of the infectious focus, if indicated and feasible, is the mainstay and also the only strictly causal line of therapy. In the presence of severe sepsis and septic shock, supportive treatment in addition to causal therapy is mandatory. The purpose of this review is to delineate some characteristics of septic myocardial dysfunction, to assess the most commonly cited and reported underlying mechanisms of cardiac dysfunction in sepsis, and to briefly outline current therapeutic strategies and possible future approaches.

Key Words:

Sepsis, defined by consensus conference as “the systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) that occurs during infection,”1 is generally viewed as a disease aggravated by the inappropriate immune response encountered in the affected individual (for review, see Hotchkiss and Karl2 and Riedemann et al,3). The Table gives the current criteria for the establishment of the diagnosis of systemic inflammatory response syndrome, sepsis, and septic shock.1,4 Morbidity and mortality are high, resulting in sepsis and septic shock being the 10th most common cause of death in the United States.5 The incidence of sepsis and sepsis-related deaths appears to be increasing by 1.5% per year.6 In a recent study,6 the total national hospital cost invoked by severe sepsis in the United States was estimated at approximately $16.7 billion on the basis of an estimated severe sepsis rate of 751 000 cases per year with 215 000 associated deaths annually. A recent study from Britain documented a 46% in-hospital mortality rate for patients presenting with severe sepsis on admission to the intensive care unit.7

Current Criteria for Establishment of the Diagnosis of SIRS, Sepsis, and Septic Shock1,4

As an important organ system frequently affected by sepsis and always affected by septic shock, the cardiovascular system and its dysfunction during sepsis have been studied in clinical and basic research for more than 5 decades. In 1951, Waisbren was the first to describe cardiovascular dysfunction due to sepsis.8 He recognized a hyperdynamic state with full bounding pulses, flushing, fever, oliguria, and hypotension. In addition, he described a second, smaller patient group who presented clammy, pale, and hypotensive with low volume pulses and who appeared more severely ill. With hindsight, the latter group might well have been volume underresuscitated, and indeed, timely and adequate volume therapy has been demonstrated to be one of the most effective supportive measures in sepsis therapy.9

Under conditions of adequate volume resuscitation, the profoundly reduced systemic vascular resistance typically encountered in sepsis10 leads to a concomitant elevation in cardiac index that obscures the myocardial dysfunction that also occurs. However, as early as the mid-1980s, significant reductions in both stroke volume and ejection fraction in septic patients were observed despite normal total cardiac output.11 Importantly, the presence of cardiovascular dysfunction in sepsis is associated with a significantly increased mortality rate of 70% to 90% compared with 20% in septic patients without cardiovascular impairment.12 Thus, myocardial dysfunction in sepsis has been the focus of intense research activity. Although a number of mediators and pathways have been shown to be associated with myocardial depression in sepsis, the precise cause remains unclear.

The purpose of the present review is to delineate some characteristics of septic myocardial dysfunction, to assess the most commonly cited and reported underlying mechanisms of cardiac dysfunction in sepsis, and to briefly outline current therapeutic strategies and possible future approaches. This review is not intended to be all inclusive.

Characteristics of Myocardial Dysfunction in Sepsis

Using portable radionuclide cineangiography, Calvin et al13 were the first to demonstrate myocardial dysfunction in adequately volume-resuscitated septic patients with decreased ejection fraction and increased end-diastolic volume index. Adding pulmonary artery catheters to serial radionuclide cineangiography, Parker and colleagues11 extended these observations with the 2 major findings that (1) survivors of septic shock were characterized by increased end-diastolic volume index and decreased ejection fraction, whereas nonsurvivors typically maintained normal cardiac volumes, and (2) these acute changes in end-diastolic volume index and ejection fraction, although sustained for several days, were reversible. More recently, echocardiographic studies have demonstrated impaired left ventricular systolic and diastolic function in septic patients.14–16 These human studies, in conjunction with experimental studies ranging from the cellular level17 to isolated heart studies18,19 and to in vivo animal models,20–22 have clearly established decreased contractility and impaired myocardial compliance as major factors that cause myocardial dysfunction in sepsis.

Notwithstanding the functional and structural differences between the left and right ventricle, similar functional alterations, as discussed above, have been observed for the right ventricle, which suggests that right ventricular dysfunction in sepsis closely parallels left ventricular dysfunction.23–26 However, the relative contribution of the right ventricle to septic cardiomyopathy remains unknown.

Myocardial dysfunction in sepsis has also been analyzed with respect to its prognostic value. Parker et al,27 reviewing septic patients on initial presentation and at 24 hours to determine prognostic indicators, found a heart rate of <106 bpm to be the only cardiac parameter on presentation that predicted a favorable outcome. At 24 hours after presentation, a systemic vascular resistance index >1529 dyne · s−1 · cm−5 · m−2, a heart rate <95 bpm or a reduction in heart rate >18 bpm, and a cardiac index >0.5 L · min−1 · m−2 suggested survival.27 In a prospective study, Rhodes et al28 demonstrated the feasibility of a dobutamine stress test for outcome stratification, with nonsurvivors being characterized by an attenuated inotropic response. The well-established biomarkers in myocardial ischemia and heart failure, cardiac troponin I and T, as well as B-type natriuretic peptide, have also been evaluated with regard to sepsis-associated myocardial dysfunction. Although B-type natriuretic peptide studies have delivered conflicting results in septic patients (for review, see Maeder et al29), several small studies have reported a relationship between elevated cardiac troponin T and I and left ventricular dysfunction in sepsis, as assessed by echocardiographic ejection fraction30–33 or pulmonary artery catheter–derived left ventricular stroke work index.34 Cardiac troponin levels also correlated with the duration of hypotension35 and the intensity of vasopressor therapy.34In addition, increased sepsis severity, measured by global scores such as the Simplified Acute Physiology Score II (SAPS II) or the Acute Physiology And Chronic Health Evaluation II score (APACHE II), was associated with increased cardiac troponin levels,31,33 as was poor short-term prognosis.32,33,35,36 Despite the heterogeneity of study populations and type of troponin studied, the mentioned studies were univocal in concluding that elevated troponin levels in septic patients reflect higher disease severity, myocardial dysfunction, and worse prognosis. In a recent meta-analysis of 23 observational studies, Lim et al37 found cardiac troponin levels to be increased in a large percentage of critically ill patients. Furthermore, in a subset of studies that permitted adjusted analysis and comprised 1706 patients, this troponin elevation was associated with an increased risk of death (odds ratio, 2.5; 95% CI, 1.9 to 3.4, P<0.001)37; however, the underlying mechanisms clearly require further research.

Thus, it appears reasonable to recommend inclusion of cardiac troponins in the monitoring of patients with severe sepsis and septic shock to facilitate prognostic stratification and to increase alertness to the presence of cardiac dysfunction in individual patients. However, it remains to be shown whether risk stratification based on cardiac troponins can identify patients in whom aggressive therapeutic regimens might reap the greatest benefit and so translate into a survival benefit.

Mechanisms Underlying Myocardial Dysfunction in Sepsis

Cardiac depression during sepsis is probably multifactorial (Figure). Nevertheless, it is important to identify individual contributing factors and mechanisms to generate worthwhile therapeutic targets. As a consequence, a vast array of mechanisms, pathways, and disruptions in cellular homeostasis have been examined in septic myocardium.


View larger version:

Synopsis of potential underlying mechanisms in septic myocardial dysfunction. MDS indicates myocardial depressant substance.

Global Ischemia

An early theory of myocardial depression in sepsis was based on the hypothesis of global myocardial ischemia; however, septic patients have been shown to have high coronary blood flow and diminished coronary artery–coronary sinus oxygen difference.38 As in the peripheral circulation, these alterations can be attributed to disturbed flow autoregulation or disturbed oxygen utilization.39,40 Coronary sinus blood studies in patients with septic shock have also demonstrated complex metabolic alterations in septic myocardium, including increased lactate extraction, decreased free fatty acid extraction, and decreased glucose uptake.41 Furthermore, several magnetic resonance studies in animal models of sepsis have demonstrated the presence of normal high-energy phosphate levels in the myocardium.42,43 It has also been proposed that myocardial dysfunction in sepsis may reflect hibernating myocardium.44 To reach this conclusion, Levy et al44 studied a murine cecal ligation and double-puncture model and observed diminished cardiac performance, increased myocardial glucose uptake, and deposits of glycogen in a setting of preserved arterial oxygen tension and myocardial perfusion. Although all of the above-mentioned findings reflect important alterations in coronary flow and myocardial metabolism, mirroring effects observed in peripheral circulation during sepsis, there is no evidence supporting global ischemia as an underlying cause of myocardial dysfunction in sepsis. However, in septic patients with coexistent and possibly undiagnosed coronary artery disease (CAD), regional myocardial ischemia or infarction secondary to CAD may certainly occur. The manifestation of myocardial ischemia due to CAD might even be facilitated by the volatile hemodynamics in sepsis, as well as by the generalized microvascular dysfunction so frequently observed in sepsis.45 Additional CAD-aggravating factors encountered in sepsis encompass generalized inflammation and the activated coagulatory system. Furthermore, the endothelium plays a prominent role in sepsis (see below), but little is known of the impact of preexisting, CAD-associated endothelial dysfunction in this context. In a postmortem study of 21 fatal cases of septic shock, previously undiagnosed myocardial ischemia at least contributed to death in 7 of the 21 cases (all 21 patients were males, with a mean age of 60.4 years).46 It certainly appears prudent to remain wary of CAD complications while treating sepsis, especially in patients with identifiable risk factors and in view of the ever-increasing mean age of intensive care unit patients and including septic patients.

Myocardial Depressant Substance

A circulating myocardial depressant factor in septic shock was first proposed more than 50 years ago.47 Parrillo et al48 quantitatively linked the clinical degree of septic myocardial dysfunction with the effect the serum, taken from respective patients, had on rat cardiac myocytes, with clinical severity correlating well with the decrease in extent and velocity of myocyte shortening. These effects were not seen when serum from convalescent patients whose cardiac function had returned to normal was applied or when serum was obtained from other critically ill, nonseptic patients.48 In extension of these findings, ultrafiltrates from patients with severe sepsis and simultaneously reduced left ventricular stroke work index (<30 g · m−1 · m−2) displayed cardiotoxic effects and contained significantly increased concentrations of interleukin (IL)-1, IL-8, and C3a.49Recently, Mink et al50 demonstrated that lysozyme c, a bacteriolytic agent believed to originate mainly from disintegrating neutrophilic granulocytes and monocytes, mediates cardiodepressive effects during Escherichia coli sepsis and, importantly, that competitive inhibition of lysozyme c can prevent myocardial depression in the respective experimental sepsis model. Additional potential candidates for myocardial depressant substance include other cytokines, prostanoids, and nitric oxide (NO). Some of these will be discussed below.


Infusion of lipopolysaccharide (LPS, an obligatory component of Gram-negative bacterial cell walls) into both animals and humans51 partially mimics the hemodynamic effects of septic shock.51,52 However, only a minority of patients with septic shock have detectable LPS levels, and the prolonged time course of septic myocardial dysfunction and the chemical characteristics of LPS are not consistent with LPS representing the sole myocardial depressant substance.48,53 Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) is an important early mediator of endotoxin-induced shock.54 TNF-α is derived from activated macrophages, but recent studies have shown that TNF-α is also secreted by cardiac myocytes in response to sepsis.55 Although application of anti-TNF-α antibodies improved left ventricular function in patients with septic shock,56 subsequent studies using monoclonal antibodies directed against TNF-α or soluble TNF-α receptors failed to improve survival in septic patients.57–59 IL-1 is synthesized by monocytes, macrophages, and neutrophils in response to TNF-α and plays a crucial role in the systemic immune response. IL-1 depresses cardiac contractility by stimulating NO synthase (NOS).60 Transcription of IL-1 is followed by delayed transcription of IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1-ra), which functions as an endogenous inhibitor of IL-1. Recombinant IL-1-ra was evaluated in phase III clinical trials, which showed a tendency toward improved survival61 and increased survival time in a retrospective analysis of the patient subgroup with the most severe sepsis62; however, to date, this initially promising therapy has failed to deliver a statistically significant survival benefit. IL-6, another proinflammatory cytokine, has also been implicated in the pathogenesis of sepsis and is considered a more consistent predictor of sepsis than TNF-α because of its prolonged elevation in the circulation.63 Although cytokines may very well play a key role in the early decrease in contractility, they cannot explain the prolonged duration of myocardial dysfunction in sepsis, unless they result in the induction or release of additional factors that in turn alter myocardial function, such as prostanoids or NO.64,65


Prostanoids are produced by the cyclooxygenase enzyme from arachidonic acid. The expression of cyclooxygenase enzyme-2 is induced, among other stimuli, by LPS and cytokines (cyclooxygenase enzyme-1 is expressed constitutively).66 Elevated levels of prostanoids such as thromboxane and prostacyclin, which have the potential to alter coronary autoregulation, coronary endothelial function, and intracoronary leukocyte activation, have been demonstrated in septic patients.67 Early animal studies with cyclooxygenase inhibitors such as indomethacin yielded very promising results.68,69Along with other positive results, these led to an important clinical study involving 455 septic patients who were randomized to receive intravenous ibuprofen or placebo.70Unfortunately, that study did not demonstrate improved survival for the treatment arm. Similarly, a more recent, smaller study on the effects of lornoxicam failed to provide evidence for a survival benefit through cyclooxygenase inhibition in sepsis.71 Animal studies aimed at elucidating possible benefits of isotype-selective cyclooxygenase inhibition have so far produced conflicting results.72,73


Endothelin-1 (ET-1; for an in-depth review of endothelin in sepsis, see Gupta et al74) upregulation has been demonstrated within 6 hours of LPS-induced septic shock.75Cardiac overexpression of ET-1 triggers an increase in inflammatory cytokines (among others, TNF-α, IL-1, and IL-6), interstitial inflammatory infiltration, and an inflammatory cardiomyopathy that results in heart failure and death.76 The involvement of ET-1 in septic myocardial dysfunction is supported by the observation that tezosentan, a dual endothelin-A and endothelin-B receptor antagonist, improved cardiac index, stroke volume index, and left ventricular stroke work index in endotoxemic shock.77 However, higher doses of tezosentan exhibited cardiotoxic effects and led to increased mortality.77Although ET-1 has been demonstrated to be of pathophysiological importance in a wide array of cardiac diseases through autocrine, endocrine, or paracrine effects, its biosynthesis, receptor-mediated signaling, and functional consequences in septic myocardial dysfunction warrant further investigation to assess the therapeutic potential of ET-1 receptor antagonists.

Nitric Oxide

NO exerts a plethora of biological effects in the cardiovascular system.78 It has been shown to modulate cardiac function under physiological and a multitude of pathophysiological conditions. In healthy volunteers, low-dose NO increases LV function, whereas inhibition of endogenous NO release by intravenous infusion of the NO synthase (NOS) inhibitor NG-monomethyl-L-arginine reduced the stroke volume index.79 Higher doses of NO have been shown to induce contractile dysfunction by depressing myocardial energy generation.80 The absence of the important NO scavenger myoglobin (Mb) in Mb knockout mice results in impaired cardiac function that is partially reversible by NOS inhibition.81 Endogenous NO contributes to hibernation in response to myocardial ischemia by reducing oxygen consumption and preserving calcium sensitivity and contractile function.82 NO also represents a potent modulator of myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury. However, as in sepsis-related NO research, the reported effects of NO on ischemia/reperfusion injury are inconsistent owing to a multitude of confounding experimental factors.83

Sepsis leads to the expression of inducible NOS (iNOS) in the myocardium,84,85 followed by high-level NO production, which in turn importantly contributes to myocardial dysfunction, in part through the generation of cytotoxic peroxynitrite, a product of NO and superoxide (for an excellent review, see Pacher et al86). In iNOS-deficient mice, cardiac function is preserved after endotoxin challenge.87 Nonspecific NOS inhibition restores cardiac output and stroke volume after LPS injection.88 Strikingly, in septic patients, infusion of methylene blue, a nonspecific NOS inhibitor, improves mean arterial pressure, stroke volume, and left ventricular stroke work and decreases the requirement for inotropic support but, unfortunately, does not alter outcome.89 An interesting study comparing the inhibition of NO superoxide and peroxynitrite in cytokine-induced myocardial contractile failure found peroxynitrite to indeed be the most promising therapeutic target.90 It has also been proposed that the constitutively expressed mitochondrial isoform of NOS (mtNOS), the expression of which can be augmented by induction, controls rates of oxidative phosphorylation by inhibiting various steps of the respiratory chain.91 Although this hypothesis would provide a plausible explanation for the reduced coronary oxygen extraction observed during sepsis (see above), the effects of sepsis on expression of mtNOS and NO generation remain to be explored. Furthermore, the constitutively expressed endothelial NOS (eNOS), previously neglected in the context of sepsis, has been shown to be an important regulator of iNOS expression, resulting in a more stable hemodynamic status in eNOS-deficient mice after endotoxemia.92 Very recently, a functional NOS in red blood cells (rbcNOS) was identified that regulates deformability of erythrocyte membranes and inhibits activation of platelets.93 With both effect targets thus far demonstrated for rbcNOS lying at the core of microvascular dysfunction in sepsis, this discovery opens a whole new window to NO-related sepsis research. Given the existence of different NOS isoforms and their various modulating interactions, dose-dependent NO effects, and the precise balance of NO, superoxide, and thus peroxynitrite generated in subcellular compartments, further advances in our understanding of the complex NO biology and its derived reactive nitrogen species hold the promise of revealing new, more specific and effective therapeutic targets.

Adhesion Molecules

Surface-expression upregulation of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 has been demonstrated in murine coronary endothelium and cardiomyocytes after LPS and TNF-α stimulation.94 After cecal ligation and double puncture, myocardial intercellular adhesion molecule-1 expression increases in rats.95Vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 blockade with antibodies has been shown to prevent myocardial dysfunction and decrease myocardial neutrophil accumulation,94,96 whereas both knockout and antibody blockade of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 ameliorate myocardial dysfunction in endotoxemia without affecting neutrophil accumulation.94 In addition, neutrophil depletion does not protect against septic cardiomyopathy, which suggests that the cardiotoxic potential of neutrophils infiltrating the myocardium is of lesser importance in this context.94 Other aspects of adhesion molecules are discussed in conjunction with possible statin effects below.

The e-Reader is advised to consider the following expansion on the subject matter carrying the discussion to additional related clinical issues:

Advanced Topics in Sepsis and the Cardiovascular System at its End Stage

Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

Therapeutic Approaches: The Present and the Future

A detailed discussion of therapeutic options in septic patients would clearly be beyond the scope of this review, and readers are kindly referred to the multiple excellent reviews published on the subject (eg, Hotchkiss and Karl,2 Annane et al,4 and Dellinger et al97). Although a number of preventive measures, such as prophylactic antibiotics, maintenance of normoglycemia, selective digestive tract decontamination, vaccines, and intravenous immunoglobulin, have shown benefit in distinct patient populations, preventive strategies with a broader aim remain elusive. Once sepsis is manifest (see the Table for criteria), prompt and adequate antibiotic therapy accompanied by surgical removal of the infectious focus, if indicated and feasible, is the mainstay and also the only strictly causal line of therapy. In the presence of severe sepsis and septic shock, supportive treatment in addition to causal therapy is mandatory. Supportive therapy encompasses early and goal-directed fluid resuscitation,9 vasopressor and inotropic therapy, red blood cell transfusion, mechanical ventilation, and renal support when indicated. It is very likely beneficial to monitor cardiac performance in these patients. A wide array of techniques are available for this purpose, ranging from echocardiography to pulmonary catheters, thermodilution techniques, and pulse pressure analysis.98 Because none of these techniques have demonstrated superiority, physicians should use the method with which they are most familiar. Whichever method is chosen, it should be applied frequently to tailor supportive therapy to the individual patient and to achieve the “gold standard” of early goal-directed therapy. In recent years, several attempts have been made to therapeutically address myocardial dysfunction in sepsis. Although the combination of norepinephrine as vasopressor and dobutamine as inotropic agent is probably the most frequently applied in septic shock, there is currently no evidence to recommend one catecholamine over the other.97 In human endotoxemia, epinephrine has been demonstrated to inhibit proinflammatory pathways and coagulation activation, as well as to augment antiinflammatory pathways,99,100 whereas no immunomodulatory or coagulant effects could be demonstrated for dobutamine in a similar setting.101 Isoproterenol has recently been applied successfully in a small group of patients with septic shock, no known history of CAD, and inappropriate mixed venous oxygen concentration despite correction of hypoxemia and anemia.102 In a cecal ligation and double-puncture model of sepsis, the β-blocker esmolol given continuously after sepsis induction improved myocardial oxygen utilization and attenuated myocardial dysfunction,103 which suggests that therapeutic strategies proven in ischemic heart failure might also hold promise in septic cardiomyopathy. However, the optimal mode of β-receptor stimulation (or indeed inhibition) to limit myocardial dysfunction remains a wide-open field for inspired investigation.

Given the generally accepted view of sepsis as a disease largely propelled by an inappropriate immune response, numerous basic research and clinical trials have been undertaken to curb the lethal toll of sepsis through modulation of this uncontrolled immune response.2,3 To date, activated protein C104 and low-dose hydrocortisone105 have emerged as the only inflammation-modulating substances that have been confirmed to be of benefit in patients with severe sepsis and septic shock. Over the past years, increasing evidence has accumulated that suggests that inhibitors of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase, or statins, have therapeutic benefits independent of cholesterol lowering, termed “pleiotropic” effects. These have added a wide scope of potential targets for statin therapy that range from decreasing renal function loss106 and lowering mortality in patients with diastolic heart failure107 to prevention and treatment of stroke,108 to name just a few. These pleiotropic effects include antiinflammatory and antioxidative properties, improvement of endothelial function, and increased NO bioavailability and thus might contribute to the benefit observed with statin therapy. Notably, these important immunomodulatory effects of statins have been demonstrated to be independent of lipid lowering109 and appear to be mediated via interference with the synthesis of mevalonate metabolites (nonsteroidal isoprenoid products). Blockade of the mevalonate pathway has been shown to suppress T-cell responses,110 reduce expression of class II major histocompatibility complexes on antigen presenting cells,109 and inhibit chemokine synthesis in peripheral blood mononuclear cells.111 Furthermore, CD11b integrin expression and CD11b-dependent adhesion of monocytes have been found to be attenuated by the initiation of statin treatment in hypercholesterolemic patients.112 In this context, Yoshida et al113 have reported that statins reduce the expression of both monocytic and endothelial adhesion molecules, eg, the integrin leukocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1), via an inhibition of Rho GTPases, in particular their membrane anchoring by geranylation. In addition, mechanisms for antiinflammatory actions of statins have been revealed that are not related to the isoprenoid metabolism. For instance, Weitz-Schmidt et al114 have identified that some statins act as direct antagonists of LFA-1 owing to their capacity to bind to the regulatory site in the LFA-1 i-domain. In addition to these multifaceted antiinflammatory effects, statins may interfere with activation of the coagulation cascade, as illustrated by the suppression of LPS-induced monocyte tissue factor in vitro.115 Beyond their immunomodulatory functions, statins have been shown to exert direct antichlamydial effects during pulmonary infection with Chlamydia pneumoniae in mice,116 and a recent report suggests the benefit of statins may also extend to viral pathogens.117

Given the strong impact of statins on inflammation, statins might represent a welcome enforcement in the battle against severe infectious diseases such as sepsis. Consequently, several investigators have evaluated the role of statins in the prevention and treatment of sepsis. In a retrospective analysis, Liappis et al118 demonstrated a reduced overall and attributable mortality in patients with bacteremia who were treated concomitantly with statins. Pretreatment with simvastatin has been shown to profoundly improve survival in a polymicrobial murine model of sepsis by preservation of cardiovascular function and inhibition of inflammatory alterations.19 Encouraged by these findings, the same model was used to successfully treat sepsis in a clinically feasible fashion, ie, treatment was initiated several hours after the onset of sepsis. With different statins (atorvastatin, pravastatin, and simvastatin) being effective, the therapeutic potential of statins in sepsis appears to be a class effect.22 Recently, Steiner et al119observed that pretreatment with simvastatin can suppress the inflammatory response induced by LPS in healthy human volunteers. Furthermore, in a prospective observational cohort study in patients with acute bacterial infections performed by Almog et al,120previous treatment with statins was associated with a considerably reduced rate of severe sepsis and intensive care unit admissions. A total of 361 patients were enrolled in that study, and 82 of these patients had been treated with statins for at least 4 weeks before their admission. Severe sepsis developed in 19% of patients in the no-statin group compared with only 2.4% in patients who were taking statins. The intensive care unit admission rates were 12.2% for the no-statin group and 3.7% for the statin group. Because of the number of patients enrolled, the study was not powered to detect differences in mortality, although the large effect on sepsis rate and intensive care unit admission were at least suggestive. As the most recent development in this field, Hackam et al121 have produced an impressive observational study by initial evaluation of 141 487 cardiovascular patients, which resulted in a well-paired and homogenous study cohort of 69 168 patients after propensity-based matching. Drawing from this solid base, Hackam and coauthors were able to support the conclusion that statin therapy is associated with a considerably decreased rate of sepsis (hazard ratio, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.72 to 0.90), severe sepsis (hazard ratio, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.70 to 0.97), and fatal sepsis (hazard ratio, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.61 to 0.93). This protective effect prevailed at both high and low statin doses and for several clinically important subpopulations, such as diabetic and heart failure patients.

As has been suggested previously,122 statins might provide cumulative benefit by reducing mortality from cardiovascular and infectious diseases such as sepsis. However, statins may have detrimental effects in distinct subsets of patients. Therefore, caution should prevail, and the use of statins in patients with sepsis must be accompanied by meticulous monitoring of unexpected side effects and well-designed randomized, controlled clinical trials.

Beyond an apparent rationale for randomized trials on statins in sepsis, it is notable that the results with other immunomodulatory approaches in sepsis have yielded rather limited success. For instance, use of the anti-TNF antibody F(ab′)2 fragment afelimomab led to a significant but rather modest reduction in risk of death and to improved organ-failure scores in patients with severe sepsis and elevated IL-6 levels.123 Moreover, a selective inhibitor of group IIA secretory phospholipase A2 failed to improve clinical outcome for patients with severe sepsis, with a negative trend most pronounced among patients with cardiovascular failure.124 Hence, because none of the available strategies proven to be effective in sepsis are designed specifically to target myocardial dysfunction, one might conclude that strategies that preferentially address cardiac morbidity in sepsis may be a promising area for investigation. For instance, lipoteichoic acid, a major virulence factor in Gram-positive sepsis, causes cardiac depression by activating myocardial TNF-α synthesis via CD14 and induces coronary vascular disturbances by activating thromboxane 2 synthesis. It thus contributes to cardiac depression and may therefore be a worthwhile and cardiac-specific target.125 The implications of intensified efforts in the search for successful novel approaches to the treatment of myocardial dysfunction in sepsis may be considerable with regard to improved patient care that results in reduced mortality. This is of major significance in view of the substantial economic consequences of increasing sepsis morbidity in an aging population.


in Circulation.2007; 116: 793-802 doi: 10.1161/​CIRCULATIONAHA.106.678359

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Circulation.2007; 116: 793-802doi: 10.1161/​CIRCULATIONAHA.106.678359

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Lev-Ari, A. 12/29/2012. Coronary artery disease in symptomatic patients referred for coronary angiography: Predicted by Serum Protein Profiles

Bernstein, HL and Lev-Ari, A. 11/28/2012. Special Considerations in Blood Lipoproteins, Viscosity, Assessment and Treatment

Lev-Ari, A. 11/13/2012 Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR-gamma) Receptors Activation: PPARγ transrepression for Angiogenesis in Cardiovascular Disease and PPARγ transactivation for Treatment of Diabetesγ-transrepression-for-angiogenesis-in-cardiovascular-disease-and-pparγ-transactivation-for-treatment-of-dia/

Lev-Ari, A. 10/19/2012 Clinical Trials Results for Endothelin System: Pathophysiological role in Chronic Heart Failure, Acute Coronary Syndromes and MI – Marker of Disease Severity or Genetic Determination?

Lev-Ari, A. 10/4/2012 Endothelin Receptors in Cardiovascular Diseases: The Role of eNOS Stimulation

Lev-Ari, A. 10/4/2012 Inhibition of ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB, Induction of NO production, stimulation of eNOS and Treatment Regime with PPAR-gamma agonists (TZD): cEPCs Endogenous Augmentation for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction – A Bibliography

Lev-Ari, A. 8/29/2012 Positioning a Therapeutic Concept for Endogenous Augmentation of cEPCs — Therapeutic Indications for Macrovascular Disease: Coronary, Cerebrovascular and Peripheral

Lev-Ari, A. 8/28/2012 Cardiovascular Outcomes: Function of circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells (cEPCs): Exploring Pharmaco-therapy targeted at Endogenous Augmentation of cEPCs

Lev-Ari, A. 8/27/2012 Endothelial Dysfunction, Diminished Availability of cEPCs, Increasing CVD Risk for Macrovascular Disease – Therapeutic Potential of cEPCs

Lev-Ari, A. 8/24/2012 Vascular Medicine and Biology: CLASSIFICATION OF FAST ACTING THERAPY FOR PATIENTS AT HIGH RISK FOR MACROVASCULAR EVENTS Macrovascular Disease – Therapeutic Potential of cEPCs

Lev-Ari, A. 7/19/2012 Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and the Role of agent alternatives in endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase (eNOS) Activation and Nitric Oxide Production

Lev-Ari, A. 4/30/2012 Resident-cell-based Therapy in Human Ischaemic Heart Disease: Evolution in the PROMISE of Thymosin beta4 for Cardiac Repair

Lev-Ari, A. 5/29/2012 Triple Antihypertensive Combination Therapy Significantly Lowers Blood Pressure in Hard-to-Treat Patients with Hypertension and Diabetes

Lev-Ari, A. 7/2/2012 Macrovascular Disease – Therapeutic Potential of cEPCs: Reduction Methods for CV Risk


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