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

Ann Vasc Surg. 2006 Jul;20(4):429-34. doi: 10.1007/s10016-006-9090-3. Epub 2006 Jun 24.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Amputation, Surgical / statistics & numerical data
  • Arm / blood supply*
  • Arm Injuries / epidemiology
  • Arm Injuries / surgery*
  • Arteries / injuries*
  • Arteries / surgery
  • Blast Injuries / surgery*
  • Blood Vessel Prosthesis Implantation
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Iraq
  • Limb Salvage / statistics & numerical data
  • Military Personnel*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / surgery
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / etiology
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / surgery
  • Reoperation
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures* / statistics & numerical data
  • Warfare*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / surgery*