Contemporary management of wartime vascular trauma

Charles J. Fox*, David L. Gillespie, Sean D. O'Donnell, Todd E. Rasmussen, James M. Goff, Chatt A. Johnson, Richard E. Galgon, Timur P. Sarac, Norman M. Rich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

202 Scopus citations


Objective: The treatment of wartime injuries has led to advances in the diagnosis and treatment of vascular trauma. Recent experience has stimulated a reappraisal of the management of such injuries, specifically assessing the effect of explosive devices on injury patterns and treatment strategies. The objective of this report is to provide a single-institution analysis of injury patterns and management strategies in the care of modern wartime vascular injuries. Methods: From December 2001 through March 2004, all wartime evacuees evaluated at a single institution were prospectively entered into a database and retrospectively reviewed. Data collected included site, type, and mechanism of vascular injury; associated trauma; type of vascular repair; initial outcome; occult injury; amputation rate; and complication. Liberal application of arteriography was used to assess these injuries. The results of that diagnostic and therapeutic approach, particularly as it related to the care of the blast-injured patient, are reviewed. Results: Of 3057 soldiers evacuated for medical evaluation, 1524 (50%) sustained battle injuries. Known or suspected vascular injuries occurred in 107 (7%) patients, and these patients comprised the study group. Sixty-eight (64%) patients were wounded by explosive devices, 27 (25%) were wounded by gunshots, and 12 (11%) experienced blunt traumatic injury. The majority of injuries (59/66 [88%]) occurred in the extremities. Nearly half (48/107) of the patients underwent vascular repair in a forward hospital in Iraq or Afghanistan. Twenty-eight (26%) required additional operative intervention on arrival in the United States. Vascular injuries were associated with bony fracture in 37% of soldiers. Twenty-one of the 107 had a primary amputation performed before evacuation. Amputation after vascular repair occurred in 8 patients. Of those, 5 had mangled extremities associated with contaminated wounds and infected grafts. Sixty-seven (63%) patients underwent diagnostic angiography. The most common indication was mechanism of injury (42%), followed by abnormal examination (33%), operative planning (18%), or evaluation of a repair (7%). Conclusions: This interim report represents the largest analysis of US military vascular injuries in more than 30 years. Wounding patterns reflect past experience with a high percentage of extremity injuries. Management of arterial repair with autologous vein graft remains the treatment of choice. Repairs in contaminated wound beds should be avoided. An increase in injuries from improvised explosive devices in modern conflict warrants the more liberal application of contrast arteriography. Endovascular techniques have advanced the contemporary management and proved valuable in the treatment of select wartime vascular injuries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)638-644
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes


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