Cerebral Protection in Experimental Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation : With Special Reference to the Effects of Methylene Blue

Abstract: Although survival rates are increasing, brain injury continues to be a leading cause of death after cardiac arrest (CA). Permanent brain damage after CA is determined by limited tolerance to ischemia from CA and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), as well as the unique cerebral response to reperfusion after return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC). A major pathway leading to neurotoxic cascade and neuronal injury after CA involves the increased presence of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species generated during ischemia and reperfusion. The magnitude of cerebral oxidative injury induced by free radicals increased with the duration of CA (Paper I). Nitric oxide (NO), a free radical responsible for the formation of reactive nitrogen species, is increased during global ischemia from CA and reperfusion (Paper IV). Hypothetically, the administration of a drug that counteracts the overproduction of NO and also acts as a scavenger of oxygen free radicals might be warranted in order to reduce the damage caused by nitrosative and oxidative stress. For these purposes we used methylene blue (MB), an old dye that has been used in medicine for almost half a century, and an experimental pig model of 20 min of ventricular fibrillation (VF) to reflect a clinical scenario of ischemia/reperfusion injury. Administration of MB added to a hypertonic-hyperoncotic solution (MBHSD) that was started during CPR and continued for 50 min after ROSC increased short-term survival by decreasing myocardial damage, as well as cerebral peroxidation and inflammatory injury (Paper II). Immunostaining of cerebral tissue collected at different time points after CA and ROSC (Paper IV) provided experimental evidence that cortical blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption begins as early as  during the initial phase of untreated as well as treated CA. The results indicated that MB administration reduced the neurologic injury and BBB disruption considerably, but did not reverse the ongoing detrimental processes. The demonstrated positive effects of MB were related to a decrease of nitrite/nitrate tissue content, and thus to a decrease of excess NO due to the MB inhibitory effects on NOS isoforms. A mixture of MB in hypertonic sodium lactate (MBL) was investigated to facilitate administration of MB in “the field.” Based on findings that MBL cardio- and neuroprotective properties were similar to those of MBHSD, there is reason to believe that the use of MBL might be extended during ongoing CPR and after ROSC (Paper III). It would therefore make sense to try using MB as a pharmacological neuroprotectant during or after clinical CPR in order to expand the temporal therapeutic window before other measures for neuroprotection such as hypothermia are available.