We have previously reported that hyberbaric oxygen (HBO) improved the survival rate of experimental free flaps. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of combined hypothermia and HBO administered during storage on free flaps and on the xanthine oxidase system in rats. Epigastric skin flaps were stored cold for 48 and 72 hours either in room air or under HBO (2.9 atmospheres absolute, 100% oxygen) before free flap transfer. The success rates of free flaps were 80% (8/10) after 48 hours and 20% (2/10) after 72 hours of cold storage in room air. HBO produced no effect after 48 hours but significantly increased the success rate to 70% (7/10) after 72 hours of cold storage. Tissue hypoxanthine (plus xanthine) levels increased to 210% of normal after 48 hours of cold storage in room air and to 176% in HBO. Elevated hypoxanthine levels returned toward normal by 72 hours of cold storage in room air, while the increased levels remained under HBO. Xanthine oxidase activities significantly increased by 60 to 80% during 72 hours of room air storage. HBO treatment inhibited xanthine oxidase activity to 48% of normal by 72 hours of storage. Free flaps exhibited no significant alterations in GR and G6PDH activity after 48 hours of cold storage in room air or HBO. After 72 hours of cold storage, the room air control displayed a trend of decreasing GR activity and a significant 20% decrease in G6PDH activity, while HBO groups showed no significant alterations in both GR and G6PDH activity compared to normal. Protection of the antioxidative enzymes by hypothermia and inhibition of the xanthine oxidase activity by HBO appear to be one of the mechanisms of improved skin flap survival in free flaps. © 1994 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
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