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Annals of Plastic Surgery:
Original Articles

Free Flap Transfer to the Dorsum of the Rat: A New Technique to Avoid Autocannibalization in Free Flap Studies

Akyürek, Mustafa MD; Sönmez, Erhan MD; Özkan, Ömer MD; Şafak, Tunç MD; Keçik, Abdullah MD

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Abstract

In this report the authors describe a new method that avoids autocannibalization by free transfer of a flap to the dorsum of the rat by means of a simple exposure technique. A total of 22 Wistar rats of both sexes (weight, 200–290 g) were used in this experiment. An anatomic study performed in 12 rats revealed that a wide exposure could be created in the axillary fossa by retracting the inferior tip of the scapular bone superiorly (after severing its attachments with the deep extrinsic back muscles), the latissimus dorsi muscle laterally, and the serratus anterior muscle medially. Furthermore, after obtaining vessel diameter measurements, it was ascertained that the subscapular and the lateral thoracic vessels could serve as the recipient vessels. Based on the anatomic study, a total of 10 conventional groin cutaneous flaps, measuring 2 × 3 cm in size, were harvested based on the femoral vessels and transferred to the dorsum of the same animal by the exposure method as just described, with microvascular anastomoses performed between the femoral vessels of the flap and either the subscapular artery and the lateral thoracic vein (N = 5) or the lateral thoracic artery and vein (N = 5). Results showed that 9 of the 10 transplanted flaps were totally viable on postoperative day 7, giving a success rate of 90%, with one failing flap belonging to the latter group. The authors conclude that by this simple method of recipient vessel exposure in the axillary fossa, free flap transfer to the dorsum of the rat is a simple and reproducible technique by microvascular anastomoses performed between the pedicle vessels of a flap and the subscapular artery and the lateral thoracic vein. This model offers the unique advantage of a dorsally located flap that is protected by autocannibalization. Moreover, daily observation and monitoring of the flap are easy and practical without the need to have the animal wear protective material such as vest.

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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