Background Extremity vascular injury (EVI) causes significant disability in Veterans of the Afghanistan/Iraq conflicts. Advancements in acute trauma care improved survival and decreased amputations. The study of wartime EVI has relied on successful limb salvage as a surrogate for vascular repair. We used imaging studies as a specific measure of arterial repair durability. Methods Service members with EVI were identified using the Department of Defense Trauma Registry and validated by chart abstraction. Inclusion criteria for the arterial patency subgroup included an initial repair attempt with subsequent imaging reports (duplex ultrasound, CT angiography, and angiogram) documenting initial patency. Results The cohort of 527 included 140 Veterans with available imaging studies for 143 arterial repairs; median follow-up from injury time to last available imaging study was 19 months (Q1-Q3: 3-58; range: 1-175). Injury mechanism was predominantly explosions (52%) and gunshot wounds (42%). Of the 143 arterial repairs, 81% were vein grafts. Eight repairs were occluded, replaced or included in extremity amputations. One upper extremity and three transtibial late amputations were performed for chronic pain and poor function averaging 27 months (SD: 4; range: 24-32). Kaplan-Meier analysis estimated patency rates of 99%, 97%, 95%, 91% and 91% at 3, 6, 12, 24, and 36 months, respectively, with similar results for upper and lower extremity repairs. Explosive and gunshot wound injury mechanisms had similar patency rates and upper extremity injuries repaired with vein grafts had increased patency. Conclusions Arterial repair mid-term patency in combat-related extremity injuries is excellent based on imaging studies for 143 repairs. Assertive attempts at acute limb salvage and vascular repair are justified with decisions for amputation versus limb salvage based on the overall condition of the patient and degree of concomitant nerve, orthopedic and soft tissue injuries rather than the presence of arterial injuries. Level of evidence Therapeutic/care management, level IV.
- vascular system injuries
- war-related injuries
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine