Early Fasciotomy and Limb Salvage and Complications in Military Lower Extremity Vascular Injury

David S. Kauvar*, Amanda M. Staudt, Zachary M. Arthurs, Brandon W. Propper, Lydia C. Piper, Jessica C. Rivera, Kathy L. Ryan, Thomas J. Walters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Military guidelines endorse early fasciotomy after revascularization of lower extremity injuries to prevent compartment syndrome, but the real-world impact is unknown. We assessed the association between fasciotomy and amputation and limb complications among lower extremitys with vascular injury. Methods: A retrospectively collected lower extremity injury database was queried for limbs undergoing attempted salvage with vascular procedure (2004-2012). Limbs were categorized as having undergone fasciotomy or not. Injury and treatment characteristics were collected, as were intervention timing data when available. The primary outcome measure was amputation. Multivariate models examined the impact of fasciotomy on limb outcomes. Results: Inclusion criteria were met by 515 limbs, 335 (65%) with fasciotomy (median 7.7 h postinjury). Of 212 limbs, 174 (84%) with timing data had fasciotomy within 30 min of initial surgery. Compartment syndrome and suspicion of elevated pressure was documented in 127 limbs (25%; 122 had fasciotomy). Tourniquet and shunt use, fracture, multiple arterial and combined arteriovenous injuries, popliteal involvement, and graft reconstruction were more common in fasciotomy limbs. Isolated venous injury and vascular ligation were more common in nonfasciotomy limbs. Fasciotomy timing was not associated with amputation. Controlling for limb injury severity, fasciotomy was not associated with amputation but was associated with limb infection, motor dysfunction, and contracture. Sixty-three percent of fasciotomies were open for >7 d, and 43% had multiple closure procedures. Fasciotomy revision (17%) was not associated with increased amputation or complications. Conclusions: Fasciotomy after military lower extremity vascular injury is predominantly performed early, frequently without documented compartment pressure elevation. Early fasciotomy is generally performed in severely injured limbs with a subsequent high rate of limb complications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-418
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Compartment syndrome
  • Fasciotomy
  • Limb salvage
  • Military trauma
  • Vascular injury


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