An old dream revitalised: preconditioning strategies to protect surgical flaps from critical ischaemia and ischaemia-reperfusion injury

J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2008;61(5):503-11. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2007.11.032. Epub 2007 Dec 31.


The prevention of ischaemia and the adequate restitution of blood flow to ischaemic tissue are pivotal to halt the progression of cellular injury associated with decreased oxygen and nutrient supply. Accordingly, the search for novel strategies which aim at preventing ischaemia-reperfusion-induced tissue damage is still of major interest in flap surgery. Preconditioning represents an elegant approach to render the tissue more resistant against deleterious ischaemic insults. For many decades, 'surgical delay' has been the standard method of tissue preconditioning. During the last 10 years, ischaemic preconditioning was added to the repertoire of plastic surgeons to protect flaps from ischaemic necrosis. The invasiveness and expenditure of time of these procedures, however, have always been major drawbacks, hindering a wide distribution in clinical practice. Consequently, the motivation has all along been to further refine and simplify protective strategies. Recent experimental studies have now shown that efficient protection from ischaemic necrosis can also be achieved by remote preconditioning or pretreatment with chemical agents and growth factors, which mimic the action of surgical delay and ischaemic preconditioning. In addition, the local application of unspecific stressors, including both heating and cooling, have been shown to effectively improve flap microcirculation and, thus, tissue survival. In view of successful translational research, it is now time that the efficacy of these novel preconditioning procedures is proven in prospective randomised clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Growth Substances / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hyperthermia, Induced / methods
  • Hypothermia, Induced / methods
  • Ischemic Preconditioning / methods*
  • Microcirculation
  • Reperfusion Injury / prevention & control*
  • Surgical Flaps / blood supply*


  • Growth Substances