Remote Ischemic Conditioning Improves Blood Flow and Oxygen Saturation in Pedicled and Free Surgical Flaps

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Surgical flaps have become safe and reliable reconstructive tools, but total flap loss rates as high as 25 percent and partial flap loss rates as high as 36 percent have been reported due to insufficient perfusion. Therefore, a reliable, noninvasive, and effective way to improve the microcirculation of surgical flaps is desirable. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of remote ischemic conditioning on the microcirculation of pedicled and free surgical flaps.


Thirty patients undergoing free (n = 20) and pedicled (n = 10) tissue transfer were included in this study. Remote ischemic conditioning was applied on the upper extremity for three cycles on postoperative days 1, 5, and 12. Blood flow, tissue oxygen saturation, and relative hemoglobin content were measured by means of a combination of laser Doppler and spectroscopy (O2C device) in the flap and the surrounding tissue. The relative increase compared with baseline measurements was assessed.


Blood flow increased significantly in controls on all 3 postoperative days (p < 0.05 for all). In free flaps, tissue oxygen saturation improved significantly on postoperative days 1 and 12 and blood flow improved significantly on postoperative days 5 and 12 (p < 0.05). In pedicled flaps, blood flow and tissue oxygen saturation increased on postoperative day12, but not significantly.


Remote ischemic conditioning is a safe, inexpensive, fast, and reliable method to improve the microcirculation of surgical flaps. Further research is warranted to see whether such an improvement translates into improved flap survival, but it is likely.


Therapeutic, IV.

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