Metabolic causes and prevention of ventricular fibrillation during acute coronary syndromes

  • Michael F Oliver
    Requests for reprints should be addressed to Michael F. Oliver, MD, Keepier Wharf, 12 Narrow Street, London E14 8DH, United Kingdom
    Cardiovascular Research Division, University of Edinburgh, and Department of Cardiology, Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
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      The mechanisms leading to ventricular fibrillation that occur during acute myocardial ischemia are ill understood. Whether primary ventricular fibrillation is due to a transient imbalance of electrolytes, an alteration of membrane permeability, electrical re-entry phenomena, or other factors, one overriding influence is the development of regional myocardial energy crises. Acute alteration in the balance of substrate supply may lead, during greatly reduced blood flow, to instability of myocardial electrical conduction with the development of re-entry circuits. An immediate response to the angor animi and initial symptoms of an acute coronary syndrome is a rapid and marked increase in catecholamine release, which leads to adipose tissue lipolysis with an acute increase in plasma free fatty acid concentrations, suppression of insulin activity, and a reduction in glucose uptake by the myocardium. The utilization of free fatty acids instead of glucose by the ischemic myocardium could precipitate regional oxygen or energy crises. Prevention therefore should focus on minimizing the catecholamine response and providing the myocardium with an optimum supply of energy substrates. Since catecholamines are inotropic, the aim should be to redress the imbalance of substrate availability by controlling adipose lipolysis with reduction of plasma free fatty acid concentrations, increasing the availability of glucose, or both. Other approaches include inhibition of acylcarnitine transport and manipulation of fatty acid intermediaries. To combat primary ventricular fibrillation, preventive treatment must be established within 6 to 10 hours of the onset of ischemia. There is already experimental and clinical evidence that antilipolytic drugs decrease the incidence of ventricular fibrillation, but their potential has not been explored extensively.


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