Intentional ischemic preconditioning prior to complex procedures like bypass surgerycould be a novel and cost-effective tactic of preventing heart muscle damage, a new study finds.

The technique, called “remote ischemic preconditioning,” involves using the blood pressure cuff to temporarily disrupt and then restore, blood supply to an area of the body distant from the heart, such as the arm.

The study found inflating a blood pressure cuff on a patient’s upper arm just before to heart bypass surgery reduces heart damage caused by the procedure and improves long-term survival.

Dr. Matthias Thielmann at the University School of Medicine Essen in Germany stated, “This procedure could be a promising and simple strategy to protect patients’ heart muscle during surgery and hopefully improve health outcomes after surgery.”

Comparative study involving 329 pateints
The focus of the study was to determine whether using a blood pressure cuff before surgery reduces cardiac issues, the researchers conducted a study. They recruited 329 patients scheduled for bypass heart surgery at the West-German Heart Center in Essen Germany.

Among them, 162 patients had remote ischemic preconditioning before the operation. They underwent three cycles of ischemic preconditioning, which involved the use of a blood pressure cuff on their left upper arm to restrict blood supply for five minutes followed by five minute period of reperfusion.

The patients in the treatment group were then compared to 167 patients who did not undergo the procedure before heart bypass surgery. Blood concentrations of troponin I ( higher concentration of the protein indicates heart muscle damage) was evaluated after the surgery. Patients who had undergone remote ischemic conditioning exhibited 17 percent lower troponin levels 72 after the surgery compared to those in the control group.

Impact on long term health examined
To assess whether remote preconditioning had an impact on long-term health, the researchers followed the patient’s for four years. Odds of mortality from any other cause was 73 percent lower in patients who had remote ischemic preconditioning and 86 percent lesser from heart attack or stroke than those in the control group.

Co-author of the study, Professor Gerd Heusch, of the University School of Medicine Essen in Germany stated, “The results of our study are very encouraging that remote ischemic preconditioning not only reduces heart muscle injury but also improves long-term health outcomes for heart bypass patients, and we hope that these benefits will be confirmed in larger prospective studies which are currently taking place.”

The findings are published in the Lancet.

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