Effect of hyperbaric oxygen and medicinal leeching on survival of axial skin flaps subjected to total venous occlusion.

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This study evaluates the effect of hyperbaric oxygen and medicinal leeching on axial skin flaps subjected to total venous occlusion. Axial epigastric skin flaps (3 x 6 cm) were elevated on their vascular pedicles in 40 male Wistar rats. Total venous occlusion was achieved by division of all veins draining the skin flap. Arterial inflow was left intact. Animals were randomly assigned to one of five groups: sham (n = 8); control, total venous occlusion only (n = 8); occlusion with hyperbaric oxygen (n = 8); occlusion with leeching (n = 8); occlusion with leeching and hyperbaric oxygen (n = 8). The hyperbaric oxygen protocol consisted of 90-minute treatments, twice daily, with 100% O2 at 2.5 atmospheres absolute for 4 days. The leeching protocol consisted of placing medicinal leeches on the congested flaps for 15 minutes, once daily, for 4 days. Laser Doppler measurements of flap perfusion were recorded preoperatively, postoperatively, and on postoperative days 1 and 3. The percentage of flap necrosis was evaluated on postoperative day 3. Mean percentage necrosis and mean laser Doppler readings were compared between both groups. The flaps in the sham group demonstrated 99 percent survival, whereas the flaps in the occlusion-only group demonstrated 100 percent necrosis. The flaps in the occlusion with oxygen, the occlusion with leeching, and the occlusion with oxygen and leeching groups demonstrated 1, 25, and 67 percent survival, respectively. Sham laser Doppler readings remained within normal limits. Laser Doppler readings in the occlusion-only and the occlusion with oxygen groups decreased to negligible levels on postoperative day 1, and on postoperative day 3 no perfusion was demonstrated. In both the occlusion with leeching and the occlusion with leeching and oxygen groups, there was also a significant decrease in laser Doppler measurements after surgery, but perfusion remained stable throughout the remainder of the study. This study demonstrates that hyperbaric oxygen alone is not an effective treatment for skin flaps compromised by total venous occlusion. The combination of leeching and hyperbaric oxygen treatment of total venous occlusion results in a significant increase in flap survival above that found with leeching alone. It appears that hyperbaric oxygen is effective because of the venous outflow provided by leeching as demonstrated by laser Doppler flow readings.





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Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Surgery

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