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A best evidence topic in cardiac surgery was written according to a structured protocol. The question addressed was whether the use of warm or cold blood cardioplegia has superior myocardial protection. More than 192 papers were found using the reported search, of which 20 represented the best evidence to answer the clinical question. The authors, journal, date, country of publication, patient group studied, study type, relevant outcomes and results of these papers are tabulated. A good breadth of high-level evidence addressing this clinical dilemma is available, including a recent meta-analysis and multiple large randomized clinical trials. Yet despite this level of evidence, no clear significant clinical benefit has been demonstrated by warm or cold blood cardioplegia. This suggests that neither method is significantly superior and that both provide similar efficacy of myocardial protection. The meta-analysis, including 41 randomized control trials (5879 patients in total), concluded that although a lower cardiac enzyme release and improved postoperative cardiac index was demonstrated in the warm cardioplegia group, this benefit was not reflected in clinical outcomes, which were similar in both groups. This theme of benefit in biochemical markers, physiological metrics and non-fatal postoperative events in the warm cardioplegia group ran throughout the literature, in particular the 'Warm Heart investigators' who conducted a randomized trial of 1732 patients, demonstrated a reduction in postoperative low output syndrome (6.1 versus 9.3%, P = 0.01) in the warm cardioplegia group, but no significant drop in 30-day all-cause mortality (1.4 versus 2.5%, P = 0.12). However, their later follow-up indicates non-fatal postoperative events predict reduced late survival, independent of cardioplegia. A minority of studies suggested a benefit of cold cardioplegia over warm in particular patient subgroups: One group conducted a retrospective study of 520 patients who required prolonged aortic cross-clamp times, results demonstrated less myocardial damage and reduced postoperative cardiac mortality and morbidity in the cold group. The clinical bottom line is that warm and cold cardioplegia result in similar short-term mortality. However, large studies have shown that warm cardioplegia reduces adverse post-operative events; the significance of which is unclear.

Original publication




Journal article


Interact cardiovasc thorac surg

Publication Date





848 - 855


Benchmarking, Cardiac Surgical Procedures, Cold Temperature, Evidence-Based Medicine, Heart Arrest, Induced, Heart Diseases, Humans, Hypothermia, Induced, Risk Assessment, Risk Factors, Treatment Outcome