Ex Vivo Machine Thrombolysis Reduces Rethrombosis Rates in S… : Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery


There is a risk for thrombotic complications (2 to 5 percent) associated with microsurgical reconstruction. Current thrombolytic therapy has a salvage rate between 60 and 70 percent, but it is afflicted by bleeding complications (2 to 6 percent). The use of machine perfusion for delivering thrombolytic agents is a new method that could potentially reduce these complications. In this article, the authors compared flap salvage outcomes comparing machine thrombolysis versus a manual flush with tissue plasminogen activator.


Sixteen bilateral flaps (12 × 9 cm) were dissected from eight female Dutch Landrace pigs (70 kg). Thrombosis was induced in free rectus abdominis flaps by clamping the pedicle’s veins for 2 hours. Flaps were either thrombolysed with 2 mg tissue plasminogen activator (1 mg/ml) during 2 hours of machine perfusion (perfusion group; n = 8) or injected intraarterially (manual group; n = 8) before replantation. Near-infrared fluorescence angiography was used to confirm thrombus formation and to assess tissue perfusion; muscle biopsy specimens were analyzed for ischemia/reperfusion injury directly after thrombolysis and 15 hours after replantation.


A higher incidence of secondary thrombosis was seen in the manual group compared to the perfusion group (n = 6 versus n = 0, respectively; p < 0.001), resulting in two complete flap failures. Fifteen hours after replantation, mean fluorescence intensities were 13.0 (95 percent CI, 10.1 to 15.8) and 24.6 (95 percent CI, 22.0 to 27.2) in the perfusion and manual group, respectively (p < 0.001), and mean muscle injury scores were comparable, measuring 7.5 ± 1.5.


Two hours of machine thrombolysis of compromised flaps in a porcine model showed higher salvage rates compared to a manual injection with tissue plasminogen activator and reduced the incidence of secondary thrombosis.

Clinical Relevance Statement: 

Using machine perfusion systems for ex vivo thrombolysis provides the benefits of local treatment of a composite tissue without the risk of systemic complications and may improve salvage rates and reduce the incidence of secondary thrombosis.

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