Background: Spontaneous circulation returns to less than half of adult cardiac arrest victims who received in-hospital resuscitation. One clue for this disheartening outcome arises from the prognosis that asystole invariably takes place, after a time lag, on diagnosis of brain stem death. The designation of brain stem death as the point of no return further suggests that permanent impairment of the brain stem cardiovascular regulatory machinery precedes death. It follows that a crucial determinant for successful revival of an arrested heart is that spontaneous circulation must resume before brain stem death commences. Here, we evaluated the hypothesis that maintained functional integrity of the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM), a neural substrate that is intimately related to brain stem death and central circulatory regulation, holds the key to the vital time-window between cardiac arrest and resumption of spontaneous circulation. Methodology/Principal Findings: An animal model of brain stem death employing the pesticide mevinphos as the experimental insult in Sprague-Dawley rats was used. Intravenous administration of lethal doses of mevinphos elicited an abrupt cardiac arrest, accompanied by elevated systemic arterial pressure and anoxia, augmented neuronal excitability and enhanced microvascular perfusion in RVLM. This period represents the vital time-window between cardiac arrest and resumption of spontaneous circulation in our experimental model. Animals with restored spontaneous circulation exhibited maintained neuronal functionality in RVLM beyond this critical time-window, alongside resumption of baseline tissue oxygen and enhancement of local blood flow. Intriguingly, animals that subsequently died manifested sustained anoxia, diminished local blood flow, depressed mitochondrial electron transport activities and reduced ATP production, leading to necrotic cell death in RVLM. That amelioration of mitochondrial dysfunction and bioenergetic failure in RVLM by coenzyme Q10, the mobile electron carrier in mitochondrial respiratory chain, or oxygenation restored spontaneous circulation further established a causal relationship between functionality of RVLM and resumed spontaneous circulation after cardiac arrest. Conclusions/Significance: We conclude that whereas necrotic cell death because of bioenergetic failure triggered by anoxia in RVLM, which precipitates brain stem death, negates resuscitation of an arrested heart, maintained functional integrity of this neural substrate holds the key to resumption of spontaneous circulation after cardiac arrest in rats.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)