Improvement of Skin Paddle Survival by Application of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in a Rat TRAM Flap Model

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The effect of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) on skin flap survival and its ability to induce a pharmacological delay by promoting angiogenesis in a flap was studied in a rat transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous flap, using a 3 × 8-cm skin paddle with the inferior epigastric vessels as its main vascular supply. Forty-three Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into four groups. In group 1, VEGF was injected into the femoral vein after the flap was elevated. In group 2, VEGF was injected intra-arterially into the flap through the superior epigastric artery after the flap was elevated. In group 3, VEGF was injected into the subcutaneous fascial layer in the area where the flap would be dissected, and the flap was then raised 7 days after injection. In group 4, the flap was dissected and replaced, using saline injection as the control. On postoperative day 5, the survival area of each skin paddle was measured and the flap was harvested for histological analysis. The results showed that the mean survival area ± standard deviation for the skin paddle was 6.82 ± 4.89 cm2 (28.4 ± 20.4% of the whole skin paddle) in the control group, and 4.2 ± 3.0 cm2 (17.5 ± 12.5%) and 6.02 ± 5.97 cm2 (25.1 ± 24.9%) in the groups with VEGF systemic and intra-arterial administration respectively. The skin survival area in the group with preoperative subcutaneous administration of VEGF was 17.85 ± 2.88 cm2 (74.4 ± 12%), which was significantly higher than the other three groups (p < 0.01). Histological semiquantitative analysis showed increased neovascularization in the flap treated with VEGF preoperatively. The data demonstrate that preoperative treatment with VEGF can induce angiogenesis and enhance skin paddle survival in a musculocutaneous flap.

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