Background: The purpose of this study was to define an experimental model and a reproducible surgical technique for the preclinical assessment of safety and biocompatibility of a novel intra-annular internal aortic annulus repair device. Methods: Adult sheep were implanted with HAART Inc's 19 mm aortic annulus repair device via a transverse aortotomy using standard anesthetic, surgical, and cardiopulmonary bypass techniques. Animals were closely monitored throughout the study period until the time of elective sacrifice at 30 or 60 days. Results: Six adult sheep, mean age 63.2 weeks, mean weight 68.8 kg, underwent aortic annuloplasty with a 19 mm annuloplasty frame. Five of the sheep remained stable until scheduled sacrifice. The primary outcome of this study was animal mortality. Early mortality was seen in only one animal (16.7%), due to a surgical complication. Mild-to-moderate aortic insufficiency was observed in all animals upon echocardiographic examination at the time of elective sacrifice. Conclusions: Of the six animals that underwent aortic annuloplasty, there was one early death due to surgical complication. The remaining five subjects were clinically stable at the time of elective sacrifice. Any conclusions regarding the cause of the observed aortic insufficiency are beyond the scope of this feasibility study but would need to be fully evaluated in the preclinical assessment of any internal aortic annuloplasty device. We have shown that we have developed a reproducible surgical technique in a physiologically appropriate model for the preclinical assessment of internal aortic annulus repair devices.
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