Our current understanding of the complex processes involved in wound healing is based mainly on studies of animal models. Although this information has been useful, it may not totally reflect the response found in human beings. For example, human beings have a tendency to either “overheal,” as seen in keloids and hypertrophic scar formation, or have deficient healing, as seen in chronic ulcer formation. No animal models are available to analyze these human clinical pathologic conditions. Therefore the objective of this study was to analyze the wound healing response in a large population (n = 40) of normal healthy human beings as a first step to begin studies of abnormal human wound healing. Simultaneously, a comparison was made between the polyvinyl alcohol implant and the expanded polytetrafluoroethylene implant model. Under sterile conditions with the use of local anesthesia, two preweighed polyvinyl alcohol implants and two standard 6 cm expanded polytetrafluoroethylene implants were placed subcutaneously in the upper arm of each subject. High‐performance liquid chromatography was used to quantitate isoleucine and hydroxy‐l‐proline in acid hydrolysates of each implant. Isoleucine was used as an indicator of protein content in the tissue sample, whereas hydroxyproline reflected collagen content. No infectious or hemorrhagic complications were found in the 40 volunteers included in the study. No significant difference was found in isoleucine or hydroxy‐l‐proline content between postoperative day 7 polyvinyl alcohol implants and day 14 polyvinyl alcohol implants. In contrast, both isoleucine and hydroxy‐l‐proline content were significantly increased in day 14 expanded polytetrafluoroethylene implants compared with day 7 implants (p < 0.005 and p < 0.001, respectively). In addition, the ratio of hydroxy‐l‐proline to isoleucine was significantly increased in day 14 expanded polytetrafluoroethylene implants compared with day 7 expanded polytetrafluoroethylene and both day 7 and day 14 polyvinyl alcohol implants (p < 0.001). This observation suggests that by 14 days implantation of expanded polytetrafluoroethylene stimulated an increased deposition of collagen. No significant differences were found in the hydroxy‐l‐proline to isoleucine ratios among day 7 expanded polytetrafluoroethylene, day 7 polyvinyl alcohol, and day 14 polyvinyl alcohol implants. Histologic analyses correlated with the biochemical findings. These results suggest that expanded polytetrafluoroethylene may be the preferred implant for studies designed to examine pathologic processes associated with retarded wound healing. In contrast, the polyvinyl alcohol implant may be better suited for studies where a low background response is required. Moreover, the extreme variability in normal healthy volunteers seen in this study correlates clinically with the finding that, among the normal adult human population, there is a heterogeneous wound healing response.
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