Myocardial stunning and hibernation revisited

New review article by Prof Gerd Heusch

Nat Rev Cardiol. 2021 Feb 2. doi: 10.1038/s41569-021-00506-7.


Abstract | Unlike acute myocardial infarction with reperfusion, in which infarct size is the end point reflecting irreversible injury, myocardial stunning and hibernation result from reversible myocardial ischaemia–reperfusion injury, and contractile dysfunction is the obvious end point. Stunned myocardium is characterized by a disproportionately long- lasting, yet fully reversible, contractile dysfunction that follows brief bouts of myocardial ischaemia. Reperfusion precipitates a burst of reactive oxygen species formation and alterations in excitation–contraction coupling, which interact and cause the contractile dysfunction. Hibernating myocardium is characterized by reduced regional contractile function and blood flow, which both recover after reperfusion or revascularization. Short- term myocardial hibernation is an adaptation of contractile function to the reduced blood flow such that energy and substrate metabolism recover during the ongoing ischaemia. Chronic myocardial hibernation is characterized by severe morphological alterations and altered expression of metabolic and pro- survival proteins. Myocardial stunning is observed clinically and must be recognized but is rarely haemodynamically compromising and does not require treatment. Myocardial hibernation is clinically identified with the use of imaging techniques, and the myocardium recovers after revascularization. Several trials in the past two decades have challenged the superiority of revascularization over medical therapy for symptomatic relief and prognosis in patients with chronic coronary syndromes. A better understanding of the pathophysiology of myocardial stunning and hibernation is important for a more precise indication of revascularization and its consequences. Therefore, this Review summarizes the current knowledge of the pathophysiology of these characteristic reperfusion phenomena and highlights their clinical implications.