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A randomized controlled trial was performed to assess the effect of intravenous aprotinin (Trasylol) on the healing of experimental colonic anastomoses in the rabbit following a standard left colonic resection anastomosis. Assessment of tensile strength was by means of both bursting pressure and breaking strength. Those animals subjected to bursting pressure assessment received intravenous aprotinin 80 000 KIU (kallikrein inhibitory units) at the time of anaesthesia, and postoperatively 160 000 KIU per day given in divided doses for three days. Control animals received saline placebo. A further group of animals received a lower loading and maintenance aprotinin dose (40 000 KIU and 60 000 KIU per day respectively) with control animals receiving saline. Breaking strength was employed as the means of assessment. The mean bursting pressures were 47.7 +/- 2.9 mmHg and 37.5 +/- 3.4 mmHg for aprotinin and controls respectively (P less than 0.05). The mean difference in collagen content of the anastomosis compared to the resected specimen was +1.25 +/- 0.50 microgram/mg and -1.02 +/- 0.47 microgram/mg for aprotinin and placebo groups (P less than 0.005). The mean breaking strength in the aprotinin group was 169.6 +/- 74.5 g and 110.0 +/- 65.9 g for the saline group (P less than 0.02). The mean difference in collagen content of the anastomosis compared to the resected specimen was +0.95 +/- 0.69 microgram/mg and -1.5 +/- 0.78 microgram/mg for the aprotinin and saline groups respectively (P less than 0.05). The significant elevation of both bursting pressure and breaking strength assessments, with a significant improvement in the collagen content of the anastomoses, may be the result of collagenase inhibition following the use of intravenous aprotinin in the experimental model.