Pulsatile Perfused Porcine Coronary Arteries for Microvascular Training

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Microsurgery is today an established technique in specialties such as plastic surgery, neurosurgery, and trauma surgery. However, specialized training is a prerequisite for mastering anastomosis of small-diameter vessels or coaptation of nerves in the operating room. The training should be as realistic as possible and thus, laboratory animals such as the rat are preferably used as a substitute. In an attempt to minimize the use of living animals without jeopardizing a realistic training setting, we developed a pulsatile perfused porcine coronary artery model for microsurgical education. The training model consists of a membrane pump that generates a pulsatile flow within a coronary artery of a porcine heart. The pump is commercially available with a dimension of approximately 130 × 100 × 60 mm and a weight of 190 g. The pump is energized by 220 B and the motor is run on a transformed power of approximately 12 V (range, 1.5–12 V). Different fluids from simple saline solution to theoretically whole blood can be used for perfusion. The membrane pump proved to be very reliable during microvascular training because of its convenient size and wide range of feed rate providing a very realistic training setting. A maximum fluid output of 850 mL/min can be achieved. The pump has a high acceptance in microsurgical trainees evaluated by questionnaires during several microsurgical courses. The pulsatile perfused porcine coronary artery system for microsurgical training enables the trainee to work under the most realistic training settings. It proved to be a valuable tool during microsurgical education, reducing the costs and sparing living laboratory animals. Thus, we can recommend this system to anyone who is involved in training and teaching microsurgical skills.

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