The adverse effects of cigarettes, due to their nicotine content, may cause important ischemic complications in flaps. Electrical stimulation increases blood flow in ischemic tissues, the level of vascular endothelial growth factor, capillary density, and angiogenesis while decreasing oxygen tension in tissues. Electrical stimulation is also known to increase survival rate in flaps. In this study, which tests the hypothesis that TENS (a type of electrical stimulation) contributes to enhancement of flap viability by eliminating the adverse effects of nicotine, 40 rats were divided into 4 groups of 10 rats. Nicotinization was achieved by subcutaneous administration of 2 mg/kg per day to the rats, other than those in the Control group, for 4 weeks. The rats in one of the nicotinized groups received 20 mA, 80 Hz TENS (TENS1 group) for 1 hour daily throughout the last week before McFarlane flaps of random pattern were made in the backs of all the rats. Another nicotinized group was subjected to TENS in a similar dose after flap elevation (TENS2 group). Flap blood flow was measured before and 48 hours after their construction, and their fluorescein perfusion was measured immediately after the flap elevation. The comparison of the survival rates of the flaps revealed that, although the blood flow in the Nicotine group was significantly lower than in the Control group, it was significantly higher in the TENS1 group than in both the Control and Nicotine groups. The proportion of the area stained with fluorescein, immediately after the elevation of flaps, was significantly reduced in the Nicotine group compared to the Control group. In the TENS1 group, however, it was greater than in the nicotine and TENS2 groups. Flap viability rates decreased significantly in the Nicotine group compared with the Control group. In the TENS2 group, however, an increase was observed compared with the Nicotine group.
These findings suggest that although TENS performed before flap elevation does not contribute to flap survival, despite causing a rise in blood flow, it enhances flap survival when applied postoperatively. Given the practicality and low cost of TENS, it can be concluded that it may be possible to use it in the management of ischemic complications in flap operations in smokers.
From the *Department of Plastic, Reconstructive and Esthetic Surgery, Erciyes University, Faculty of Medicine, Kayseri; and †Department of Plastic, Reconstructive and Esthetic Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Kahramanmaraş Sütçü İmam University, Kahramanmaraş, Turkey.
Received January 9, 2013, and accepted for publication, after revision, April 5, 2013.
Conflicts of interest and sources of funding: none declared.
Reprints: İrfan Özyazgan, MD, Department of Plastic, Reconstructive and Esthetic Surgery, Erciyes University, Faculty of Medicine, 38039, Melikgazi, Kayseri, Turkey. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.