Objectives/Hypothesis: To demonstrate the significance of apoptosis in ischemia-reperfusion injury in revascularized fasciocutaneous flaps and test the hypothesis that pharmacologic inhibition of caspases prolongs the allowable primary ischemia time of these flaps.
Study Design: Animal study using the epigastric flap in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats.
Methods: Fifty-nine rats were treated with the caspase inhibitor (Q-VD-OPH) reconstituted in dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) (n = 20, 8 mg/kg:0.8 mL/kg), DMSO alone (n = 19, 0.8 mL/kg), or saline (n = 20, 0.8 mL/kg). Treatment was given as a single intraperitoneal injection 30 minutes before starting primary ischemia. Epigastric flaps were subjected to increasing ischemia times followed by reperfusion. The flaps were harvested and analyzed 7 days later, and viability was assessed. Probit statistical analysis was used to determine the critical ischemia time. This was defined as the time point when 50% of the flaps in each group were expected to survive.
Results: The calculated critical ischemia times were 8.92 hours (95% confidence interval 7.19–10.47 h) for the saline group, 16.35 hours (95% confidence interval 11.82–19.89 h) for the DMSO group, and 21.73 hours (95% confidence interval 19.39–25.37 h) for the DMSO with Q-VD-OPH group. These differences were significantly different from each other.
Conclusions: Pretreatment of fasciocutaneous flaps with a free radical scavenger alone or in combination with a caspase inhibitor significantly increases the flap's tolerance of primary ischemia. The added benefit of the caspase inhibitor suggests that apoptosis plays an important role in ischemia-reperfusion injury in soft tissue flaps.