Incidence and outcome of pulmonary embolism following popliteal venous repair in trauma cases

Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2011 Mar;41(3):406-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ejvs.2010.11.028. Epub 2011 Jan 12.


Objectives and design: Popliteal vein repair and ligation are the two main approaches to the treatment of the venous component of major, complex, knee injuries with vascular involvement. We have studied the incidence of pulmonary embolism following popliteal vein repair in trauma cases using computed tomography (CT) angiography and report the outcome.

Material and methods: From June 2006 to December 2009, 45 patients with popliteal vein injury were operated on in our vascular unit using lateral venorrhaphy, end-to-end anastomosis, a saphenous vein interposition graft and venous patch repair. All the patients were operated on using a medial approach to the knee. On the third postoperative day, all patients underwent a colour Doppler scan of the repaired popliteal vein to study patency, and pulmonary artery CT angiography using a 64-slice multidetector CT scan unit to establish the incidence of pulmonary embolism.

Results: The number of patients treated by each method were: lateral venorrhaphy 20 (44%), end-to-end anastomosis 13 (29%), saphenous vein interposition graft 9 (20%) and venous patch repair three (7%). Two patients (4%) died because of sudden cardio-respiratory arrest the day after surgery with massive bilateral pulmonary artery embolism at autopsy. Popliteal colour duplex ultrasound imaging showed seven (16%) cases of complete vein thrombosis and seven (16%) cases of partial vein thrombosis. CT angiography showed pulmonary embolism in 11 (26%) patients. From seven patients with complete thrombosis three patients, and from seven patients with incomplete thrombosis five patients showed pulmonary embolism on CT angiography. Other than two cases of early mortality, five (12%) patients developed clinical manifestations of pulmonary embolism and 11 (26%) patients had pulmonary embolism detected by CT angiography. Seven (16%) of our patients had mild-to-severe pulmonary embolism and 13 patients (29%) had proven pulmonary embolism. The total mortality rate was 7%.

Conclusion: A surprisingly high incidence of pulmonary embolism was observed after popliteal vein repair in civil trauma patients. Additional prophylactic methods such as using higher doses of heparin and using inferior vena cava (IVC) filters might be needed to prevent this potentially fatal complication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anastomosis, Surgical
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Iran / epidemiology
  • Knee Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Knee Injuries / surgery*
  • Ligation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Popliteal Vein / diagnostic imaging
  • Popliteal Vein / injuries
  • Popliteal Vein / physiopathology
  • Popliteal Vein / surgery*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Embolism / epidemiology*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / mortality
  • Saphenous Vein / transplantation
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Color
  • Vascular Grafting / adverse effects
  • Vascular Patency
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / mortality
  • Vascular System Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Vascular System Injuries / surgery*
  • Venous Thrombosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Venous Thrombosis / epidemiology*
  • Venous Thrombosis / mortality
  • Venous Thrombosis / physiopathology
  • Young Adult