The timing and nature of neovascularization of jejunal free flaps: An experimental study in a large animal model
The present study was designed (1) to determine whether a free jejunal transfer in a large animal model can develop collateral circulation that is adequate to maintain viability after division of the pedicle and (2) to determine the earliest time pedicle ligation is safe after transplantation. A 15-cm jejunal segment was transferred to the necks of 18 dogs weighing 25 to 35 kg. The bowel segment was inset longitudinally under the skin on one side of the neck, partially covered by the neck muscles, and the mesenteric vessels were anastomosed to recipient vessels in the neck. The proximal and distal bowel stomas were exteriorized through skin openings 12 cm apart and matured. The dogs were subjected to ligation of the vascular pedicle at different intervals: postoperative day 7 (group I, n = 3), day 14 (group II, n = 5), day 21 (group III, n = 5), and day 28 (group IV, n = 5). Blood perfusion was measured in the proximal and distal bowel stomas before pedicle division (control) and 24 hours later using hydrogen gas clearance and fluorescein dye. Bowel necrosis was analyzed using planimetry. The bowel was also stained with hematoxylin and eosin and factor VIII, and new blood vessels were counted. Mean values (+/- standard deviation) were compared with control values for each test and with normal values in the intact bowel using analysis of variance with Neumann-Keuls post-hoc test for multiple comparisons. No jejunal free flaps survived when the vascular pedicle was divided 1 week postoperatively. Bowel survival was 60 percent at 2 weeks, 83 percent at 3 weeks, and 100 percent at 4 weeks. Hydrogen gas clearance values (ml/min/100 g) were 49.6 +/- 8.7 in the mucosa of the intraabdominal jejunum and 37.9 +/- 9.4 in the jejunum that was transferred to the neck before division of the pedicle. Twenty-four hours after pedicle division, hydrogen gas clearance values were 2.8 +/- 6.4 in group I (p < 0.05), 22.4 +/- 12.4 in group II, 23.9 +/- 9.3 in group III, and 34.2 +/- 7.5 in group IV. FluoroScan readings in the transferred jejunum were 201 +/- 7.2 in the control group, 9.3 +/- 2.8 in group I (p < 0.05), 79.1 +/- 10.6 in group II, 66.2 +/- 7.3 in group III, and 164 +/- 11.9 in group IV. New vessel formation as identified by factor VIII staining correlated with increasing bowel perfusion and flap survival rate. Bowel neovascularization, perfusion, and survival increased progressively 1 week after transfer. Significant portions of the transferred bowel will neovascularize and survive as early as 2 weeks postoperatively. However, a minimum of 4 weeks before ligation of the pedicle is necessary to maximize flap perfusion and guarantee survival.