Vis, A., Lammers, J. C. A. M., de Vroege, R. et al. 2021. Strategies to improve survival from surgery for heart valve implantation in sheep. Comparative Medicine 71(3), 235-239.
Sheep are a commonly used and validated model for cardiovascular research and, more specifically, for heart valve research. Implanting a heart valve on the arrested heart in sheep is complex and is often complicated by difficulties in restarting the heart, causing significant on-table mortality. Therefore, optimal cardioprotective management during heart valve implantation in sheep is essential. However, little is known about successful cardioprotective management techniques in sheep. This article reports our experience in the cardioprotective management of 20 female sheep that underwent surgical aortic valve replacement with a stented tissue-engineered heart valve prosthesis. During this series of experiments, we modified our cardioprotection protocol to improve survival. We emphasize the importance of total body hypothermia and external cooling of the heart. Furthermore, we recommend repeated cardioplegia administration at 20 min intervals during surgery, with the final dosage of cardioplegia given immediately before the de-clamping of the aorta. To reduce the number of defibrillator shocks during a state of ventricular fibrillation (VF), we have learned to restart the heart by reclamping the aorta, administering cardioplegia until cardiac arrest, and de-clamping the aorta thereafter. Despite these encouraging results, more research is needed to finalize a protocol for this procedure.