Fistula and strictures at the site of sutured anastomoses are frequent complications of major urethroplasty. We harvested bladder mucosa in 26 rabbits to repair large defects in the proximal urethra using laser-activated solder in the hope that such a repair would be stronger, faster to create and avoid common complications seen with conventional repair. Large oval defects were created in the proximal urethra in all animals undergoing urethroplasty. Twelve animals underwent bladder mucosa graft closure via diode (808 nm.) laser activation of an albumin-based solder (50 percent were suture-free). Fourteen additional animals underwent closure with 7-zero polydiaxanone suture (controls). Leak pressure and time of repair were recorded for each graft. Additional sections of bladder mucosa were harvested, transected and repaired by laser welding to determine tensile strength. In both groups, radiography, urethroscopy and clinical course were evaluated for as much as 6 weeks postoperatively. Urethroplasty time was significantly (p less than 0.01) shorter for the laser group (13.8 plus/minus 2.5 minutes) than for the sutured repair group (24.0 plus/minus 5.3 minutes). Initial leak pressures for the lasered grafts averaged at least 4 times those of sutured grafts (p less than 0.01). The tensile strength for lasered bladder mucosa was 3.16 plus/minus 1.12 kg./cm.2 Early retrograde urethrograms (RUG) performed at 7 days (n = 5) revealed urinary extravasation and fistula formation in 2 control animals compared with a normal urethral appearance in 3 lasered repairs. Early retrograde urethrograms performed at 21 days (n = 21) demonstrated smooth-walled urethras with no evidence of fistula, stricture, or urinary extravasation in the lasered group; varying degrees of reactive mucosal proliferation were seen in the controls. Urethroscopy confirmed these observations. At 6 weeks, histologic examination confirmed the presence of viable graft in all animals. We conclude that bladder mucosa patch graft urethroplasty using diode laser welding and albumin-based solder is an attractive alternative to conventional methods.
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