Object. This study was undertaken to investigate the healing process and to delineate factors important for the survival of free fascial grafts used for dural repair.
Methods. A dural defect was created in guinea pigs and then reconstructed using either a free fascial graft or an expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) sheet. The fascial graft was covered directly by subcutaneous tissue (Group I) or by a silicone sheet to prevent tissue ingrowth from the subcutaneous tissue (Group II). The ePTFE sheet was covered with a silicone sheet (Group III). One or 2 weeks postoperatively, the strength of the dural repair was evaluated by determining the pressure at which cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaked through the wound margins. The dural repair was also histologically examined. In addition, using a rat model, specimens obtained from similar reconstruction sites were immunohistochemically stained with antibodies against basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), epidermal growth factor, or transforming growth factor—β.
The pressures at which CSF leaked after 1 and 2 weeks, respectively, were 50 ± 14 mm Hg and 126 ± 20 mm Hg in Group I, 70 ± 16 mm Hg and 101 ± 38 mm Hg in Group II, and 0 mm Hg and 8 ± 8 mm Hg in Group III. Failure of repairs made in Group III occurred at significantly lower pressures when compared with Groups I and II. In Groups I and II, a thick fibrous tissue formed around the fascial graft. This tissue tightly adhered to adjacent dura mater. The fibrous tissue displayed a positive reaction for the presence of bFGF. In Group III, only a thin fibrous membrane surrounded the ePTFE sheet.
Conclusions. Fascial grafts tolerated extraordinary intracranial pressures at 1 week postoperatively. Free fascial grafts can heal with durable fibrous tissue without the presence of a blood supply from an overlying vascularized flap.