Back to the root: a large animal model of the Ross procedure
The excellent clinical outcome of the Ross procedure and previous histological studies suggest that the pulmonary autograft has the potential to offer young patients a permanent solution to aortic valve disease. We aim to study the early mechanobiological adaptation of the autograft. To this end, we have reviewed relevant existing animal models, including the canine models which enabled Donald N Ross to perform the first Ross procedure in a patient in 1967. Two research groups recently evaluated the isolated effect of systemic pressures on pulmonary arterial tissue in an ovine model of a pulmonary artery interposition graft in the descending aorta. While this model is ideal to study the artery’s biological response and the effect of external support, it does not recreate the complex environment of the aortic root. The freestanding Ross procedure has been performed in pigs and sheep before. These studies offered valuable insights into leaflet growth and histological remodeling, yet may be less relevant to adults undergoing the Ross procedure, as pronounced autograft dilatation was achieved by using small, rapidly growing animals. Therefore, a large animal model remains needed to determine the ideal conditions and surgical technique to ensure long-term autograft remodeling and valve function. We set out to develop an ovine model of the Ross procedure performed as a freestanding root replacement, acknowledging that the sheep’s specific anatomy and the setting of an animal laboratory would mandate several modifications in surgical strategy. This article describes the development, surgical technique and early outcomes of our animal model while highlighting opportunities for further research.