A contemporary, 7-year analysis of vascular injury from the war in Afghanistan

Jigarkumar A. Patel*, Joseph M. White, Paul W. White, Norman M. Rich, Todd E. Rasmussen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Objective: Vascular injury is a leading cause of death and disability in military and civilian trauma. Although a previous interim study defined the distribution of vascular injury during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a contemporary epidemiologic assessment has not been performed. The objective of this study was to provide a current analysis of vascular injury during the final 7 years of the war in Afghanistan, including characterization of anatomic injury patterns, mechanisms of injury, and methods of acute management. Methods: The Department of Defense Trauma Registry was analyzed to identify U.S. military service members who sustained a battle-related vascular injury and survived to be treated at a surgical facility in Afghanistan between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2015. All battle-related injuries (nonreturn to duty) were used as a denominator to establish the injury rate. Mechanism and anatomic distribution of injury as well as the acute management strategies of revascularization, ligation, and use of endovascular techniques were defined. Results: Of 3900 service members who sustained a battle-related injury, 685 patients (17.6%) had 1105 vascular injuries (1.6 vascular injuries per patient). Extremity trauma accounted for 72% (n = 796) of vascular injuries, followed by the torso (17%; n = 188) and cervical (11%; n = 118) regions. Lower extremity vascular injury was the most prevalent anatomic location (45%; 501/1105). Explosion with fragment penetration accounted for 70% (477/685) of injuries, whereas gunshot wounds accounted for 30% (205/685). Open repair was performed in 559 cases (57%; 554/981), whereas ligation was the initial management strategy in 40% (395/981) of cases. In addition, 374 diagnostic endovascular procedures were completed, 27 therapeutic endovascular interventions to include stent placement and angioplasty were performed and 55 inferior vena cava filters were placed. Mortality of the vascular injury cohort was 5%. Conclusions: The rate of vascular injury in modern combat is higher than that reported in previous wars. Open reconstruction is performed in half of cases, although ligation is an important damage control option, especially for minor or distal vessel injuries. Angiographic techniques are increasingly being used and documented within wartime registries more than ever. Proficiency with open and endovascular methods of vascular injury management remains a critical need for the U.S. military and will require partnership with civilian institutions to attain and maintain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1872-1879
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Vascular trauma
  • War injury


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