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The Protective Effect of L-Arginine on Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury in Rat Skin Flaps

Cordeiro, Peter G. M.D.; Mastorakos, Dimitrios P. M.D.; Hu, Qun-Ying M.D.; Kirschner, Richard E. M.D.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: October 1997 - Volume 100 - Issue 5 - p 1227–1233
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The objective of this study was to examine whether the administration of L-arginine, a precursor of nitric oxide and substrate of nitric oxide synthase, prior to reperfusion could lead to decrease in neutrophil-mediated tissue injury and improved flap survival. Epigastric island skin flaps were elevated in 70 rats and rendered ischemic. Thirty minutes prior to reperfusion, the rats were treated with intraperitoneal saline (n = 15), L-arginine (n = 15), Darginine (n = 15), or Nω-nitro-L-arginine methylester plus L-arginine in equimolar amounts (n = 15). Flap survival at 7 days and neutrophil counts at 24 hours were evaluated.

Flap necrosis as expected in the sham group of animals (n = 10) was 0.0 percent, while the control (saline-treated) animals had 59.6 percent necrosis. Animals treated with L-arginine demonstrated a significant decrease in flap necrosis to 12.7 percent. This protective effect was almost completely negated by Nδ-nitro-L-arginine methylester, which significantly increased flap necrosis to 49.3 percent and was much less pronounced with D-arginine (28.6 percent). Neutrophil counts were significantly decreased in flaps from L-arginine-treated and sham animals versus both saline and Nω-nitro-L-arginine methylester—treated groups.

We conclude that administration of L-arginine prior to reperfusion can significantly reduce the extent of flap necrosis and flap neutrophil counts due to ischemiareperfusion injury. This protective effect is completely negated by nitric oxide synthase inhibition. Since L-arginine reduces the number of neutrophils within the flap and the extent of flap necrosis only in the presence of active nitric oxide synthase, we hypothesize that this protective effect of L-arginine on ischemia-reperfusion injury is secondary to a nitric oxide-mediated suppression of neutrophil-mediated injury. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 100: 1227, 1997.)

New York, N.Y.

From the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Department of Surgery at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. Received for publication February 6, 1996; revised November 12, 1996.

Presented at the Plastic Surgery Research Council Meeting, in New York, New York, in 1995.

Peter G. Cordeiro, M.D.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

1275, York Avenue

New York, N.Y. 10021

©1997American Society of Plastic Surgeons