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Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2008 Aug;34(2):326-31. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcts.2008.04.042. Epub 2008 Jun 6.

Ca2+ sensitizer superior to catecholamine during myocardial stunning?

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  • 1Research Group Experimental Surgery, Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, University Hospital Düsseldorf, Moorenstrasse 5, Düsseldorf, Germany.



After open-chest cardiac surgery, ventricular function remains depressed (myocardial stunning). Catecholamines (epinephrine) improve ventricular function by increasing the intracellular Ca(2+) concentration. In parallel, the oxygen consumption is increased, so that the hitherto intact myocardium can be jeopardized. In the very insufficient ventricle, epinephrine can even become ineffective. Since Ca(2+) sensitizers provide another therapeutic avenue, the effects of epinephrine and levosimendan on postischemic hemodynamics were investigated.


After hemodynamic steady state, isolated, blood (erythrocyte-enriched Krebs-Henseleit solution)-perfused rabbit hearts were subjected to 25 min normothermic, no-flow ischemia and 20 min reperfusion. Heart rate (HR), cardiac output (CO), left ventricular pressure (LVP), coronary blood flow (CBF), and arterio-venous oxygen difference (AVDO(2)) were recorded during reperfusion and after administration of either epinephrine (n=16; 0.03 micromol), or levosimendan (n=11; 0.75 micromol) or epinephrine plus levosimendan (n=5).


Epinephrine increased HR (19%, p=0.01) and improved hemodynamics in terms of CO (62%, p=0.0006), stroke volume SV (46%, p=0.02), stroke work W (158%, p=0.01), LVP(max) (58%, p=0.0001), maximal pressure increase dP/dt(max)(140%, p=0.0004), minimal pressure increase dP/dt(min) (104%, p=0.0002), LVP(ed) (-26%, p=0.02), and increased coronary resistance CR (31%, p=0.05). Epinephrine impaired hemodynamics in terms of AVDO(2) (+63%, p=0.003), myocardial oxygen consumption MVO(2) (+67%, p=0.0003) and MVO(2)/beat (+36%, p=0.01). External efficiency eta was increased by 92% (p=0.02). Levosimendan in postischemic hearts increased HR (32%, p=0.009) and improved hemodynamics in terms of CO (85%, p=0.01), SV (44%, p=0.03), W (115%, p=0.04), LVP(max) (95%, p=0.04), dP/dt(max) (133%, p=0.009), dP/dt(min) (121%, p=0.007), LVP(ed) (-63%, p=0.0006), and CR (-17%; n.s., p=0.1). It altered hemodynamics in terms of AVDO(2) (+7.0%; n.s., p=0.3) and MVO(2) (+32%, p=0.007) and MVO(2)/beat (+2.3%; n.s., p=0.4). External efficiency was increased by 307% (p=0.04). In five additional extremely dysfunctional rabbit hearts, epinephrine was ineffective. Additional levosimendan increased hemodynamics in terms of HR (56%; n.s., p=0.1), CO (159%, p=0.04), SV (89%, p=0.03), W (588%, p=0.02), LVP(max) (168%, p=0.03), dP/dt(max) (102%, p=0.005), dP/dt(min) (78%, p=0.006), LVP(ed) (-98%, p=0.0006), and CR (-50%, p=0.02). It altered hemodynamics in terms of AVDO(2) (-11%; n.s., p=0.05), MVO(2) (+131%, p=0.04) and MVO(2)/beat (+171%, p=0.03). External efficiency was increased by 212% (p=0.04).


In contrast to epinephrine, levosimendan improves ventricular function without increasing oxygen demand, thereby considerably improving external efficiency. Even during epinephrine resistance in extremely dysfunctional hearts, levosimendan successfully improves ventricular function.

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