Upper extremity vascular injury: A current in-theater wartime report from Operation Iraqi Freedom

W. Darrin Clouse*, Todd E. Rasmussen, Jon Perlstein, Michael J. Sutherland, Michael A. Peck, Jonathan L. Eliason, Slobadon Jazerevic, Donald H. Jenkins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Past wartime experience and recent civilian reports indicate upper extremity (UE) vascular injury occurs less often and with less limb loss than lower extremity (LE) injury. Given advances in critical care, damage control techniques, and military armor technology, the objective of this evaluation was to define contemporary patterns of UE injury and effectiveness of vascular surgical management in UE vascular injury during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). From 1 September 2004 through 31 August 2005, 2,473 combat-related injuries were treated at the central echelon III surgical facility in Iraq. Patients with UE vascular injuries upon arrival were reviewed. Vessels injured were delineated. Therapeutic interventions, early limb viability, and complication rates following vascular repair were recorded. Of casualties treated during the study period, 43 (1.7%) UE and 83 (3.3%) LE vascular injuries were identified. Of the UE injuries, 11 (26%) had been operated on at forward locations and six (14%) had temporary shunts in place upon arrival at our facility. Injury levels included 10 (23%) subclavian-axillary, 25 (58%) brachial, and 10 (23%) distal to the brachial bifurcation. Two patients had multilevel injury. Twenty-eight grafts were placed, and 10 vessel repairs and eight ligations were performed. Two (4.7%) brachial interposition grafts required removal due to infection. Four (9.3%) subacute brachial graft thromboses occurred. Four (9.3%) patients underwent early UE amputation. In this most recent U.S. military evaluation of wartime UE vascular injury, UE injury appears rare, with LE injury twice as frequent. Yet, UE limb loss appears more substantial than noted previously. These findings are likely related to significant tissue destruction occurring with the combined mechanisms of injury sustained in OIF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-434
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Vascular Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2006
Externally publishedYes


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