IWS measures total wall stress throughout the cardiac cycle over a unit time (= 1 min) including the effect of heart rate and inotropic state of the ventricular myocardium, whereas one-spot measurement of PS-WS and ED-WS only reflects maximum and minimum wall stress during a cardiac cycle, respectively. We hypothesized that increase in IWS indicates failure of myocardium to counteract increased ventricular workload. We have measured IWS in the mouse model in various physiological and pathological conditions to validate this hypothesis. Unchanged IWS observed in sham operated mice may imply that the contractile reserve of ventricular myocardium can absorb the increased cardiac output, whereas increased IWS after MI suggests that ventricular workloads exceeds intrinsic myocardial contractile reserve. Thus, we postulate that IWS is a reliable physiological marker in indicating a balance between external ventricular workload and intrinsic myocardial contractile reserve.
IWS and myocardial reserve
“Wall stress theory” is an important concept in understanding the process of cardiac hypertrophy in response to increased hemodynamic loading . When the LV myocardium encounters biomechanical overload, either pressure overload or volume overload, cardiac hypertrophy is naturally induced to normalize the wall stress so that myocardium can minimize the increase in myocardial oxygen demand; myocardial oxygen consumption depends mainly on systolic wall stress, heart rate, and contractility [8, 17]. A question arises whether this hypertrophic response is a compensatory physiological adaptation to stabilize the wall stress or a pathological process leading to ventricular remodeling and heart failure. Physiological hypertrophy as seen in trained athletes reveals increased contractile reserve, whereas pathological hypertrophy shows a decrease in contractile reserve in addition to molecular expression of ventricular remodeling [18–20]. However, what regulates the transition from compensatory adaptation to maladaptive process is not well understood.
Systolic wall stress has been studied extensively as a clinical marker for myocardial reserve. Systolic wall stress reflects the major determinants of the degree of LV hypertrophy and plays a predominant role in LV function and myocardial energy balance . It has been shown that increased systolic wall stress inversely correlates with systolic function and myocardial reserve in patients with chronic volume overload [9, 10, 21], chronic pressure overload [22, 23], and dilated cardiomyopathy . However, one-point measurement of systolic wall stress does not encompass the effect of heart rate and contractile status, the other critical factors that affect myocardial oxygen demand . The idea of IWS has been proposed to incorporate wall stress throughout the cardiac cycle and reflects the effects of heart rate and contractile status.
Myocardial oxygen consumption is determined mainly by ventricular wall stress, heart rate and contractility , which are all incorporated in IWS measurement. Continuous measurement of LV wall stress was previously reported in humans [12, 15] and dogs  with a similar method, but not in mice. By integrating the continuous WS over one minute, we estimated the balance between myocardial contractile reserve and total external ventricular workload and examined its trend in relation to inotropic stimulation in the mouse heart in vivo. In this study, we have proposed unchanged IWS as a marker of sufficient myocardial contractile reserve, since increased wall stress demands higher myocardial oxygen consumption. Indeed, systolic wall stress does not increase with strenuous isometric exercise in healthy young athletes . Thus, we propose that increase in IWS indicates diminished myocardial contractile reserve.
Small MI model as a unique model to study early phase of progressive ventricular remodeling
A complex series of protective and damaging events takes place after MI, resulting in increased ventricular workload . Initial ventricular geometric change is considered as a primary compensatory response to counteract an abrupt loss of contractile tissue. In classical theories of wall stress, which rely on the law of Laplace, the mechanisms of progressive ventricular dilatation and functional deterioration of the LV are attributed to the increased wall stress that is not compensated by the intrinsic compensatory mechanisms [2, 16]. Although this theory is obvious in advanced stage of heart failure, the subclinical ventricular remodeling following borderline cases such as following small MI with initial full compensatory response is not well explained.
We have shown that our small MI model induced concentric hypertrophy without LV dilatation as if initial myocardial damage was completely compensated (Figure 2) . Although LV hypertrophy is induced initially to normalize the wall stress and to prevent ventricular dilatation, this hypertrophy is not altogether a physiological one because of decreased inotrophic and lusitropic reserve when stimulated with dobutamine (Figure 4) and because of simultaneous molecular and histological evidence of remodeling in the remote nonischemic LV myocardium (Figure 3). IWS and PS-WS become normalized in small MI at rest under anesthesia as a result of reactive hypertrophy accompanied by increased ANP and BNP mRNA level. Borderline maladaptive LVH is characterized by maintained LV performance at the expense of limited myocardial contractile reserve, and this abnormality can be unmasked by inotropic stimulation . The trend of IWS at rest and with dobutamine stimulation suggests that MI mice were likely exposed to higher IWS during usual awake and active condition than sham-operated mice. In contrast, systolic wall stress in the pressure overload-induced LV hypertrophy showed a level comparable to that of sham both at rest and under stimulation by β1 adrenergic agonist, prenalterol, with comparable heart rate changes . For this reason, IWS assessment by measuring cumulative WS in a unit time with and without inotropic stimuation should serve as a sensitive marker to assess whether induced LV hypertrophy is a compensatory physiological adaptation process or a pathological maladaptation process. Increased IWS that indicates imposed workload surpassing myocardial contractile reserve is likely to become a major driving factor in inducing progressive ventricular remodeling or initiating deleterious maladaptive processes after MI.
IWS represents myocardial oxygen demand that can be estimated non-invasively
We have demonstrated a very good correlation between IWS and the product of PS-WS and HR (“IWS index”) in both MI and sham-operated hearts (Figure 6). This formula appears physiologically acceptable provided that ED-WS is sufficiently low compared with the PS-WS (approximately 10%, as is shown in Figures 4B and C). ES-WS was previously introduced as a useful tool for assessing myocardial loading status and myocardial oxygen consumption, but its measurement requires complicated preparation [28, 29]. Because there is an excellent correlation between PS-WS and ES-WS, it has been demonstrated that ES-WS can be substituted by PS-WS , which can be easily obtained non-invasively . ES-WS was previously determined as a useful marker to quantify LV afterload and contractility that can be simply and accurately measured non-invasively . As myocardial oxygen consumption is mainly dependent upon systolic wall stress, contractility, and heart rate, it seems reasonable to propose that IWS and IWS index represent the status of myocardial contractile reserve.
There are certain limitations in this study. First, wall stress measurement is reliable when there is an equal wall thickness with symmetrical structure. Obviously, with the creation of small MI, there is an asymmetry of LV myocardium in both structure and consistency (myocardium vs. scar tissue). However, the scar tissue is small and restricted to the LV apex (approximately 14% of entire LV myocardium ). In fact, most of LV wall was thickened after induction of this small experimental MI. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that this is our major limitation. Secondly, there is an individual variability in response to dobutamine stimulation even in sham mice. Although the average sham mice (n = 5) showed only a modest increase in HR, PS-WS, and IWS during dobutamine stimulation, one mouse presented in Figure 1 showed a notable increase in HR and PS-WS in response to dobutamine. Nevertheless, even with increased HR and PS-WS, the calculated IWS remained relatively unchanged in the sham-operated mice. Lastly, the reliability of IWS index is based upon the stipulation that ED-WS is significantly low compared with the systolic wall stress. Thus, IWS index may not be accurate in obvious volume overload cases and/or dilated hearts with LV dysfunction where ED-WS is significantly higher than that in normal condition. Of note, ED-WS in human is higher than that in mice in relation to PS-WS, probably around 15 to 20% of PS-WS .
IWS can be estimated by obtaining IWS index, which is calculated non-invasively by simultaneous M-mode echocardiogram and cuff blood pressure measurement, i.e., PS-WS instead of ES-WS and heart rate. This will provide a sensitive way to detect subclinical borderline failing myocardium in which the decline in LV myocardial contractile reserve precedes apparent LV dysfunction. This method may be clinically useful to address LV myocardial reserve in those patients who are not amenable to perform on exercise stress test, such as immediate post-operative patients under mechanical ventilation, critically ill patients with questionable LV dysfunction, and patients with primary muscular disorders and general muscular weakness (i.e., Duchenne muscular dystrophy).