Objective: The aim of the study was to identify factors influencing surgical treatment outcome following upper extremity arterial injuries.
Methods: This 15-year study (January 1992 to December 2006) included 167 patients with 189 civilian, iatrogenic or military upper extremity arterial injuries requiring surgical intervention. Patient data were prospectively entered into a vascular trauma database and retrospectively analysed.
Results: The most frequently damaged vessel was the brachial artery (55% of injuries), followed by the axillary (21.7%), antebrachial (21.2%) and subclavian (2.1%) arteries. Three primary amputations (1.8%) were performed because of extensive soft-tissue destruction and signs of irreversible ischaemia on admission. Seven secondary amputations (4.2%) were due to graft failure, infection, anastomotic disruption or the extent of soft-tissue and nerve damage. Fasciotomy was required in 9.6% of cases. Operative mortality was 2.4% (four deaths). Early graft failure, compartment syndrome, associated skeletal and brachial plexus damage and a military mechanism of injury were found to be significant risk factors for limb loss (p<0.01).
Conclusion: Although careful physical examination should diagnose the majority of upper extremity arterial injuries, angiography is helpful in detailing their site and extent. Prompt reconstruction is essential for optimal results. Nerve trauma is the primary cause of long-term functional disability.