Hibernating myocardium in patients with coronary artery disease: Identification and clinical importance

R. Ferrari, G. La Canna, R. Giubbini, O. Alfieri, O. Visioli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The term hibernating myocardium describes a particular outcome of myocardial ischemia in which myocytes show a chronically depressed contractile ability but remain viable. Revascularization of hibernating tissue causes a recovery of mechanical function that correlates with long-term survival. Therefore it is important clinically to distinguish hibernating from infarcted myocardium, since asynergies due to hibernation will improve on reperfusion, whilst those due to infarct will not. One suggested technique to identify hibernating myocardium is to stimulate the myocytes acutely, but briefly, by administration of inotropic agents while monitoring contractile function by echocardiography. We report our experience on the use of low dosages of dobutamine. Myocardial viability was validated by measuring the recovery in contraction of the akinetic areas after coroanry artery bypass surgery by means of intraoperative epicardial echocardiography. The test has a sensitivity of 93% and a specificity of 78%. It is useful for identification of viable myocardium and also for quantification of intraoperative risk in individual patients. Limitations of this test are related to the presence of downregulation of beta receptors and to the impossibility of differentiating hibernating from stunned myocardium. Another useful technique of identifying hibernating myocardium is the use of radionuclear markers for viability. In our experience the two most important tests are (1) rest-redistribution imaging of thallium 201 (which has a high sensitivity of 93% but a low specificity of 44%) and (2) 99mTe-Sestamibi imaging, which provides information on both perfusion and function with a single injection. This latter technique allows differentiation between stunning and hibernating on the basis of coronary flow, which is preserved in stunning and reduced in hibernation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-293
Number of pages7
JournalCardiovascular Drugs and Therapy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1992


  • dobutamine
  • echocardiography
  • hibernating myocardium
  • nuclear cardiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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