Limb Salvage Does Not Predict Functional Limb Outcome after Revascularization for Traumatic Acute Limb Ischemia

Ann Vasc Surg. 2020 Jul;66:220-224. doi: 10.1016/j.avsg.2019.10.068. Epub 2019 Oct 30.


Background: Traumatic vascular injury leading to acute limb ischemia (ALI) is an uncommon problem with a potential for high morbidity. We describe a contemporary series of patients with traumatic ALI managed primarily by vascular surgeons at a tertiary referral center and review factors associated with limb salvage and functional limb outcomes.

Methods: We conducted a single institution, retrospective review of all patients requiring revascularization for upper extremity (UE) and lower extremity (LE) ALI secondary to trauma from 2013 to 2016. Demographic data, transfer timing, injury severity score (ISS), Rutherford classification (RC), preoperative imaging, level of occlusion, procedural information, fasciotomy characteristics, and discharge disposition were reviewed. Outcome measures included limb salvage and functional limb outcomes.

Results: We identified 68 patients with traumatic ALI requiring revascularization. The majority of patients had moderate ISS scores, were RC 2a or 2b on presentation (65%), were transferred from another institution (53%), and underwent preoperative imaging (62%) with expeditious time to operation (median 4.5 hr). The most common location of vascular injury for UE was axillary-brachial (88%) and for LE was femoral-popliteal (69%). Open vascular procedures dominated the treatment strategy, and the median number of operations was 3. Fasciotomy was performed in 25% of UE and 58% of LE injuries. Shunts were utilized in only 2 patients. Overall LS was 94% for UE and 78% for LE. The median length of stay (LOS) was 11 days, with 25% of patients discharged to a skilled nursing facility. Follow-up was obtained for 59% of patients. For UE injuries, 57% of patients had no or minimal functional deficits, while 33% had major functional deficits and 10% underwent amputation. For LE injuries, 68% of patients had no or minimal functional deficits, while 6% had major functional deficits, and 26% had undergone amputation. Rutherford class and the number of operations performed were independent predictors of amputation and functional limb at follow-up in our logistic regression model (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: Revascularization for traumatic ALI yields high limb salvage rates in patients with RC 1 and 2 ischemia and patients with UE injuries. However, limb salvage does not necessarily equate to good functional outcomes. This signifies the complex nature of injuries in this patient population, especially when multiple operations are required.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Amputation, Surgical
  • Fasciotomy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Ischemia / diagnostic imaging
  • Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Ischemia / surgery*
  • Length of Stay
  • Limb Salvage / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Discharge
  • Recovery of Function
  • Reoperation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures* / adverse effects
  • Vascular System Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Vascular System Injuries / physiopathology
  • Vascular System Injuries / surgery*