Infrared fluorescence imaging of lymphatic regeneration in nonhuman primate facial vascularized composite allografts

Gerhard S. Mundinger, Mitsunaga Narushima, Helen G. Hui-Chou, Luke S. Jones, Jinny S. Ha, Steven T. Shipley, Cinthia B. Drachenberg, Amir H. Dorafshar, Isao Koshima, Stephen T. Bartlett, Rolf N. Barth, Eduardo D. Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND:: Clinical vascularized composite allografts (VCA), although performed with good success, have been characterized by rejection episodes and postoperative graft edema. We investigated lymphatic donor-recipient reconstitution and lymphatic regeneration in a nonhuman primate facial VCA model. METHODS:: Heterotopic partial face (n ≤ 9) VCAs were performed in cynomolgus macaques. Grafts were monitored for rejection episodes and response to immunosuppressive therapies as previously described. Donor and recipient lymphatic channels were evaluated using a near-infrared handheld dual-channel light-emitting diode camera system capable of detecting fluorescence from indocyanine green injections. Graft lymphatic channels were serially evaluated from postoperative day 0 to 364. RESULTS:: Preoperative imaging demonstrated superficial lymphatic anatomy similar to human anatomy. Initial resolution of facial allograft swelling coincided with superficial donor-recipient lymphatic channel reconstitution. Reconstitution occurred despite early acute rejection episodes in 2 animals. However, lymphatic channels demonstrated persistent functional and anatomic pathology, and graft edema never fully resolved. No differences in lymphatic channels were noted between grafts that developed transplant vasculopathy (n ≤ 3) and those that did not (n ≤ 6). Dynamic changes in patterns of lymphatic drainage were noted in 4 animals following withdrawal of immunosuppression. CONCLUSIONS:: Donor-recipient lymphatic channel regeneration following VCA did not result in resolution of edema. Technical causes of graft edema may be overcome with alternative surgical techniques, allowing for direct investigation of the immunologic relationship between VCA graft edema and rejection responses. Mechanisms and timing of dynamic donor-recipient lymphatic channel relationships can be evaluated using fluorescent imaging systems to better define the immunologic role of lymphatic channels in VCA engraftment and rejection responses, which may have direct clinical implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-319
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of plastic surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • face transplant
  • fluorescent
  • immunosuppression
  • indocyanine green
  • light-emitting diode
  • lymphatic
  • lymphedema
  • nonhuman primate
  • rejection
  • vascularized composite allograft

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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