The mouse hind limb model represents a powerful research tool in vascularized composite tissue allotransplantation, but its applicability is limited due to poor graft survival (62%–83%). Vascular thrombosis and massive hemorrhage are the major causes for these drop-outs. We hypothesize that because of better anticoagulation effect and lower risk of thrombocytopenia, application of low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) will minimize vascular complications and enhance graft and animal survival.
Fifty allogeneic hind limb transplantations were performed (C57BL/6 to DBA/2 mice) using five different anticoagulation protocols. Bleeding and thromboembolic events were recorded macroscopically by postoperative hemorrhage and livid discoloration of the graft, respectively. Graft perfusion and survival were monitored daily by capillary-refill-time of graft toes within 2–3 seconds. Vascular congestion and tissue necrosis were examined by histological evaluation of hematoxylin-eosin-stained tissue sections.
All transplantations were technically successful. Increase in thromboembolic events and a concomitant decrease in bleeding events were observed with the decreasing concentration of heparin in the perfusion solution. Although treatment of donor and recipient with low dose of LMWH could not reduce thromboembolic events, moderate dose effectively reduced these events. Compared with the poor outcome of graft perfusion with heparin alone, additional treatment of donor and recipient with low dose of LMWH improved graft and animal survival by 18%. Interestingly, animals treated with moderate dose of LMWH demonstrated 100% graft and animal survival.
Treatment of donor and recipient mice with a moderate dose of LMWH prevents vascular complications and improves the outcome of murine hind limb transplants.