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F1000Res. 2017 Apr 25;6:563. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.10963.1. eCollection 2017.

Is there a role for ischaemic conditioning in cardiac surgery?

Candilio L1,2, Hausenloy D1,2,3,4,5,6.

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The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute, Institute of Cardiovascular Science, University College London, London, UK.
The National Institute of Health Research-University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre, London, UK.
Barts Heart Centre, St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, UK.
Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Program, Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School, Singapore, Singapore.
National Heart Research Institute Singapore, National Heart Centre, Singapore, Singapore.
Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University Singapore, Singapore, Singapore.


Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery is the revascularisation strategy of choice in patients with diabetes mellitus and complex CAD. Owing to a number of factors, including the ageing population, the increased complexity of CAD being treated, concomitant valve and aortic surgery, and multiple comorbidities, higher-risk patients are being operated on, the result of which is an increased risk of sustaining perioperative myocardial injury (PMI) and poorer clinical outcomes. As such, new treatment strategies are required to protect the heart against PMI and improve clinical outcomes following cardiac surgery. In this regard, the heart can be endogenously protected from PMI by subjecting the myocardium to one or more brief cycles of ischaemia and reperfusion, a strategy called "ischaemic conditioning". However, this requires an intervention applied directly to the heart, which may be challenging to apply in the clinical setting. In this regard, the strategy of remote ischaemic conditioning (RIC) may be more attractive, as it allows the endogenous cardioprotective strategy to be applied away from the heart to the arm or leg by simply inflating and deflating a cuff on the upper arm or thigh to induce one or more brief cycles of ischaemia and reperfusion (termed "limb RIC"). Although a number of small clinical studies have demonstrated less PMI with limb RIC following cardiac surgery, three recently published large multicentre randomised clinical trials found no beneficial effects on short-term or long-term clinical outcomes, questioning the role of limb RIC in the setting of cardiac surgery. In this article, we review ischaemic conditioning as a therapeutic strategy for endogenous cardioprotection in patients undergoing cardiac surgery and discuss the potential reasons for the failure of limb RIC to improve clinical outcomes in this setting. Crucially, limb RIC still has the therapeutic potential to protect the heart in other clinical settings, such as acute myocardial infarction, and it may also protect other organs against acute ischaemia/reperfusion injury (such as the brain, kidney, and liver).


ischemic postconditioning; ischemic preconditioning; remote ischemic conditioning

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: The authors declare that they have no competing interests.No competing interests were disclosed.No competing interests were disclosed.No competing interests were disclosed.

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