Background. The present study was undertaken to investigate the effect of denervation on leukocyte function in soft-tissue infection in an isolated in vivo ovine flap model. Methods. Fifteen adult ewes were divided into three groups. An island pedicle flap was raised on the right buttock. In group I (no denervation), the cutaneous nerve remained intact, whereas in group II (acute denervation) the nerve was divided acutely. In group III (prolonged denervation) the nerve was divided 7 days before flap elevation. All flaps received intradermal inoculation of 107 Staphylococcus aureus, and the animals were observed for 96 hours. Results. In both groups II and III, the leukocyte chemiluminescence and chemotaxis were significantly decreased when compared with group I. Furthermore, there was profound impairment of leukocyte functions in group III compared with group II. Group III also had significantly higher bacterial counts, larger septic foci, lower viable leukocyte ratios, and decreased bacterial killing compared with group L. Conclusions. Denervation, particularly over a period of time, results in increased bacterial growth of soft-tissue septic foci. This appears to be due to decreased leukocyte function resulting in diminished bacterial killing.
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