Background. Clinical experience suggests that granulation tissue may be inhibited by coverage with a musculocutaneous flap. We hypothesized that coverage of an open wound with a musculocutaneous flap would result in regression and apoptosis of the wound's granulation tissue. Methods. In the first experiment, 32 rats underwent excisional wounding; 16 underwent musculocutaneous flap coverage of their granulation tissue on postwounding day 8, and then 16 rats (8 controls + 8 flaps) were killed on both postwounding days 10 and 12 (2 and 4 days after the flap procedure, respectively). In the second experiment, 18 rats were wounded, and on postwounding day 5 the rats underwent flap coverage (n = 6), wound edge release/mobilization (the first step of the flap procedure) without flap coverage (n = 6), or dressing change only (n = 6); all rats were killed on postwounding day 6 (24 hours after the secondary intervention). Apoptosis was quantified with the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick-end labeling assay. Results. Placement of a musculocutaneous flap over an 8-day-old excisional wound in the first experiment increased the apoptotic rate in the granulation tissue from 0% to 1% (controls) to 5% to 10% at both 2 and 4 days after flap coverage (P < .05). Cell population density decreased 50% in the flap-covered granulation tissue compared with the controls (P < .05). In the second experiment, circumferential release of the granulation tissue resulted in an equivalent increase in granulation tissue apoptosis over controls compared to that induced by the full flap procedure. Conclusions. Coverage of established granulation tissue with a musculocutaneous flap resulted in histologic regression of the wound's granulation tissue after 2 to 4 days of flap coverage and induced at least a 5-fold increase in the apoptotic rate of the granulation tissue. Releasing the wound edge increased granulation tissue apoptosis to a level equivalent to that produced by the musculocutaneous flap procedure, suggesting that alteration of the wound's mechanical environment is responsible for the acute induction of apoptosis in this model.
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