Management and outcomes of wartime cervical carotid artery injury

Paul W. White*, Patrick F. Walker, Joseph D. Bozzay, Jigarkumar A. Patel, Todd E. Rasmussen, Joseph M. White

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Cervical carotid artery injuries entail high morbidity and mortality and are technically challenging to repair. This retrospective study describes the management and outcomes of cervical carotid injuries sustained during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. METHODS: The Department of Defense Trauma Registry was queried to identify US military personnel who sustained battle-related cervical carotid injury between January 2002 and December 2015. Retrospective chart reviews of the military Electronic Health Record were performed on patients identified. Demographics, injury characteristics, surgical management, and outcomes were reviewed. Statistical analysis was performed to identify associations between injury and management factors, as well as stroke and mortality. RESULTS: In total, 67 patients (100% male; age, 25 ± 7 years) were identified with cervical carotid artery injuries. Fifty-six patients (84%) sustained a common carotid artery (CCA) or internal carotid artery (ICA) injury, and 11 patients (16%) had an isolated external carotid artery (ECA) injury. The anatomic distribution of injury was as follows: CCA, 26 (38.8%); ICA, 24 (35.8%); CCA and ICA 2 (3%); ICA and ECA 3 (4.5%); and CCA, ICA, and ECA 1 (1.5%). Of the 56 CCA or ICA injuries, 39 underwent vascular repair, 9 (16%) were managed with ligation, 1 was treated with a temporary vascular shunt but succumbed to injuries before vascular repair, and 7 (13%) were treated nonoperatively. Seven (23%) of 30 ICA injuries were ligated compared with 2 (7.7%) of 26 injuries isolated to the CCA (p = 0.02). Compared with repair, ligation of the CCA/ICA was associated with a higher rate of stroke (89% vs. 33%, p = 0.003) and increased mortality without statistical significance (22% vs. 10%, p = 0.3). Every patient who underwent ICA ligation had a stroke (7/7). There was no difference in Injury Severity Score between the ligation and repair groups (23.8 ± 10.6 vs. 24.7 ± 13.4, p = 0.9). At a mean follow-up of 34.5 months, 10 of 17 stroke survivors had permanent neurologic deficits. CONCLUSION: In modern combat, penetrating injuries involving the cervical carotid arteries are relatively infrequent. In this experience, isolated ICA injuries were three times more likely to be ligated than those involving the CCA. As a surgical maneuver, ICA ligation resulted in stroke in all cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S225-S230
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Cervical carotid artery injury
  • combat casualty care


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