Objective: We prospectively investigated the patency of venous repair in a quantitative fashion with measurement of vein blood flow velocities after lower extremity injuries caused by either military or civilian trauma.
Material and methods: During a 10-year study period (March 1990 to December 2000), surgical intervention was performed after lower extremity vascular injuries in 130 patients. Most of these patients were men (n = 125), with a mean age of 23 +/- 5 years (range, 17 to 44 years). One hundred ten direct venous injuries were identified in 97 patients, involving the common femoral vein in seven, the deep femoral vein in three, the superficial femoral vein in nine, the popliteal vein in 46, and the posterior tibial (n = 21), anterior tibial (n = 17), or peroneal veins (n = 7) in 45. Popliteal vein thrombosis without apparent venous injury was found in seven patients. Bone fractures (n = 45), nerve injuries (n = 27), or extensive tissue loss (n = 7) often were associated with vascular injuries. Duplex color ultrasonography was used to evaluate patency and to measure blood flow velocity in repaired veins during the early postoperative period and at the time of late follow-up examinations.
Results: Significant differences were seen in venous blood flow velocities between severe (extremity diameter more than twice normal) and moderate (diameter 1.5 to 2 times normal) reperfusion injuries. The mean flow velocity in repaired popliteal veins was 15 +/- 2 cm/s with severe reperfusion injuries compared with 8.4 +/- 1.1 cm/s with moderate reperfusion injuries (P <.0001). Flow velocities were lower than 5 cm/s in repaired infrapopliteal veins, and most of these veins occluded on the first postoperative day. Amputations were necessary in 11 patients, all of whom had both tibial fractures and extensive tissue loss. Sodium warfarin therapy was routinely administrated before hospital discharge. The mean follow-up period was 6.2 years (range, 1.3 to 10 years). Repaired common femoral and superficial femoral veins had relatively high patency rates (100% and 89% at 1 year, 100% and 78% at 6 years, respectively), whereas the patency rates for repaired popliteal veins were disappointing (86% at 1 year, 60% at 6 years). All seven popliteal veins that required thrombectomy in the absence of direct injuries remained patent, however. Patch angioplasty had the highest 6-year patency rate (75%) in comparison with all other techniques that were used for venous injuries (lateral repair, 58%; end-to-end anastomosis, 43%; saphenous vein graft interposition, 36%).
Conclusion: Venous repair has a high patency rate at the femoral and popliteal levels, but the patency rate for infrapopliteal venous repair is extremely poor because of low flow velocities. Therefore, we conclude that repair of infrapopliteal venous injuries is unnecessary.