Protecting the heart from ischemia/reperfusion injury: an update on remote ischemic preconditioning and postconditioning

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Purpose of review

The most effective strategy for reducing acute myocardial ischemic injury is timely and effective reperfusion. However, myocardial reperfusion can induce further cardiomyocyte death (reperfusion injury). Interventions that protect the heart from ischemia/reperfusion injury, reducing infarct size, can involve remote ischemic preconditioning and postconditioning. These interventions have a promising potential clinical application, and have been the focus of recent research. In this review, we provide an update of remote ischemic preconditioning and postconditioning mechanisms.

Recent findings

Remote ischemic preconditioning cardioprotection can occur via a humoral pathway and/or a neural pathway. These two pathways have been described as mechanistically different, but it has been suggested that they could be interdependent. However, remote ischemic postconditioning mainly involves the humoral pathway. In this review, we will discuss the different pathways and mechanisms involved in remote ischemic preconditioning and postconditioning.


Remote ischemic preconditioning and postconditioning is possible to perform in a clinical setting by intermittent ischemia of an upper or lower limb. Furthermore, clinical trials using this procedure in the context of predictable ischemia-reperfusion have produced promising results, and other studies to define the potential clinical use of these strategies are ongoing.

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