Introduction of reperfusion therapy by primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) has resulted in improved outcomes for patients presenting with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction. Despite the obvious advantages of primary PCI, acute restoration of blood flow paradoxically also jeopardises the myocardium in the first minutes of reperfusion—a phenomenon known as reperfusion injury. Prevention of reperfusion injury may help to improve outcome following primary PCI. This review focuses on the clinical evidence of potential therapeutic cardioprotective methods as adjuvant to primary PCI. Despite overall disappointing, there exists some promising strategies, including ischaemic postconditioning, remote ischaemic conditioning, pharmacological conditioning with focus on adenosine, cyclosporine A, glucose–insulin–potassium, exenatide, atrial natriuretic peptide and metoprolol and cooling. But hitherto no large randomised study has demonstrated any effect on outcome, and ongoing studies that address this issue are underway. Moreover, this review will discuss important clinical predictors associated with reperfusion injury during primary PCI that may interfere with a potential protective effect (pre-PCI thrombolysis in myocardial infarction flow, preinfarction angina, collateral flow, duration of ischaemia and hyperglycaemia). This paper will also provide a short overview of the technical issues related to surrogate endpoints in phase II trials. Based upon these discussions, the paper will provide factors that should be taken into account when designing future clinical studies.
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