Selective Intraoperative Vasopressor Use Is Not Associated with Increased Risk of DIEP Flap Complications

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Abstract

Background:

During deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap cases, anesthesiologists commonly avoid intravenous vasopressor administration because of the theoretical concern of inducing vasospasm, thrombosis, or congestion in the vessels of the anastomosis, potentially resulting in poor flap perfusion and ischemia and necessitating revision. In the setting of hypotension, however, vasopressor administration may actually improve outcomes by augmenting flap perfusion by means of increased mean arterial pressure.

Methods:

The authors reviewed 475 consecutive DIEP flap cases in 333 patients at a single large academic medical center over a 3-year period, addressing potential confounders using univariate analyses.

Results:

Ephedrine administration was significantly associated with decreased risk of intraoperative flap complications (OR, 0.88), including vasospasm, thrombosis, and congestion requiring revision, compared with controls, after controlling for the severity and duration of hypotension. Phenylephrine had no significant association with complication rates. Vasopressor administration was not associated with an increased risk of reoperation in the setting of necrosis within 60 days.

Conclusions:

Ephedrine treatment for hypotension during DIEP flap cases is associated with decreased intraoperative flap complication rates compared with controls who did not receive vasopressors, whereas phenylephrine has no significant association. The common clinical practice of complete abstinence from vasopressors out of concern for worsening DIEP flap outcomes is not supported by this study.

CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:

Therapeutic, III.

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