Journal of plastic, reconstructive & aesthetic surgery : JPRAS

Negative pressure wound therapy reduces the ischaemia/reperfusion-associated inflammatory response in free muscle flaps.

PMID 22137686


We recently established negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) as a safe postoperative care concept for free muscle flaps; however, the molecular effects of NPWT on free muscle flaps remain elusive. Here we investigated the effects of NPWT on pathological changes associated with ischaemia/reperfusion injury in free flap tissue. From July 2008 to September 2010, 30 patients receiving skin-grafted free muscle transfer for defect coverage were randomly assigned to two treatment groups: In one group the skin-grafted free flap was covered by a vacuum dressing (NPWT); in the second group, flaps were covered by conventional petroleum gauze dressings (conv). Biopsies were taken intra-operatively prior to clipping of the pedicle and on postoperative day 5. Samples were analysed by immunohistochemistry for infiltration of inflammatory cells, real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for the analysis of expression levels of interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha as markers of inflammation. Histological samples were also examined for interstitial oedema formation, and apoptosis was detected by a terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labelling (TUNEL) assay. NPWT leads to a significantly reduced tissue infiltration of CD68 + macrophages and reduced expression of the inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and TNFα. None of these parameters was significantly elevated in the pre-ischaemic biopsies. Furthermore, NPWT reduced the interstitial oedema formation and the number of apoptotic cells in free flap tissue. NPWT of skin-grafted free muscle flaps leads to a reduced inflammatory response following ischaemia/reperfusion, resulting in reduced oedema formation improving the microcirculation and ultimately reduced tissue damage. We thereby deliver new insight into the effects of NPWT.

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