Spinal Cord Stimulation Improves Survival in Ischemic Skin Flaps: An Experimental Study of the Possible Mediation by Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide

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Currently, spinal cord stimulation is used to treat ischemia and ischemic pain, with the best results observed in vasospastic cases. It was earlier demonstrated that spinal cord stimulation may attenuate experimentally induced vasospasm in an island flap in the rat. The present study was designed to investigate whether preemptive spinal cord stimulation could increase long-term flap survival and to explore the neurohumoral mediation of the effect.A total of 56 rats were implanted with chronic spinal cord stimulation systems. Three days later, a groin flap based on the superficial epigastric vessels was harvested, and the single feeding artery was occluded by a detachable microvascular clip. After 12 hours, the clip was removed. Flap survival was evaluated after 7 days. Immediately before flap surgery, two groups of animals received 30 minutes of stimulation using current clinical parameters and with stimulation amplitudes of 70 (n = 10) or 90 percent (n = 8) of that evoking muscular contractions. The outcomes in these groups were compared with those in two control groups (n = 20; n = 10). In one group, an additional calcitonin gene-receptor peptide (CGRP) antagonist was intravenously injected before stimulation (n = 8).In the control groups without stimulation, virtually all flaps necrotized. In treated groups, flap survival was 60 percent at the lower intensity and almost 90 percent at the higher one. The administration of a CGRP antagonist before treatment reduced its efficacy to below 40 percent survival. The differences between the untreated and treated groups were significant. The decrease in survival after CGRP-receptor block was significant in one of two tests.Preemptive spinal cord stimulation increases survival of skin flaps with critical ischemia. The effects are dependent on the stimulation intensity and are possibly mediated by the release of CGRP in the periphery. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 103: 1221, 1999.)

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