Near–infrared spectroscopy has primarily been used in monitoring changes in cerebral haemoglobin oxygenatiuon and haemodynamics. However its use as a method for the assessment of tissue viability following transplantation has recently been explored experimentally in our laboratory.
The ability to measure changes in oxygenation and perfusion during harvesting and following transplantation of organs or transfer of free and pedicled flaps is potentially important in reconstructive surgery. We have found that near–infrared spectroscopy is extremely useful in detecting vaso–occlusive events and can accurately and reliably distinguish between arterial, venous or total occlusions. Venous congestion indicated by raised levels of deoxygenated haemoglobin with a concomitant increase in blood volume and the presence and magnitude of reactive hyperaemia are both easily recognizable features by near–infrared spectroscopy. We have shown that near–infrared spectroscopy measurements of venous congestion in kidneys (and other tissues) following prolonged storage correlate with medullary vascular congestion confirmed by angiographical and histological analysis of intrarenal perfusion.
Clinically we have shown that flap perfusion can be improved by altering fluid replacement regimes and the addition of ionotropes. Cerebral near–infrared spectroscopy measurements in a liver transplant model showed statistically significant differences within minutes after the anhepatic phase in cerebral perfusion and oxygenation, between animals transplanted with ischaemically damaged livers compared to those isografted with minimally stored livers. Similarly we have found that near–infrared spectroscopy can be used as a monitor to assess the adequacy of fluid or blood replacement in haemorrhagic and hypovolaemic models. We believe that near–infrared spectroscopy provides a sensitive and reliable postoperative method for the assessment of tissue viability following the transfer of free and pedicled flaps and organs.