Aortocaval and iliac arteriovenous fistulas: recognition and treatment

J Vasc Surg. 1991 Feb;13(2):253-64; discussion 264-5.


Despite the well characterized physiologic effects of aortocaval or iliac arteriovenous fistulas, patients with such uncommon lesions may manifest a diverse array of symptoms, and diagnosis is often delayed or overlooked. To examine clinical features that facilitate recognition and allow successful repair, a 30-year experience with 20 such fistulas was reviewed. Fourteen fistulas were caused by aneurysm erosion, four followed iatrogenic injury during lumbar disk surgery, and two developed from abdominal gunshot wounds. The interval from presumed occurrence to diagnosis ranged from 3 hours to 8 years. The diagnosis was not recognized before surgery in five (25%) patients. Back pain (70%) was the most common symptom. The presence of a typical abdominal bruit (80%) was the most reliable physical finding, but its significance was occasionally overlooked or misinterpreted. Congestive heart failure was prominent in only seven (35%) patients. Severe lower extremity edema and mottling was the primary manifestation in eight cases, often causing initial confusion with venous thrombosis. Hematuria (5 patients) and oliguric renal failure (4 patients), both fully reversible after fistula repair, also caused diagnostic uncertainty. The mean preoperative cardiac output was 12.2 L/min, falling to 5.4 L/min with fistula repair. Mean blood loss was 5960 ml, supporting use of intraoperative autotransfusion. Two operative deaths (10%) occurred, both in patients not correctly diagnosed before surgery. Despite varied modes of presentation, prompt recognition and use of appropriate operative techniques should achieve successful repair.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aorta, Abdominal* / surgery
  • Aortic Aneurysm / complications
  • Aortic Rupture / complications
  • Arteriovenous Fistula / diagnostic imaging
  • Arteriovenous Fistula / etiology
  • Arteriovenous Fistula / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iliac Artery* / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Venae Cavae* / surgery