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Br J Surg. 2000 May;87(5):602-7.

Gunshot injuries of the popliteal artery.

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Metropolitan Vascular Service, Department of Surgery, University of Natal, Durban, South Africa.



Guidelines for the management of popliteal artery trauma emanate mainly from military experience. This study was undertaken to describe the management of popliteal injuries in a civilian vascular surgical unit with a large trauma workload.


A retrospective review of records of patients treated between 1983 and 1997 was undertaken.


Some 117 popliteal artery gunshot injuries were treated (83 low velocity, 16 high velocity, 18 shotgun). Associated fractures occurred in 44 patients and 40 had popliteal vein injuries. Treatment of the arterial injury included vein graft interposition in 71, primary reanastomosis in 19, prosthetic graft interposition in four, lateral suture in one, vein patch in one and ligation in one patient; 84 fasciotomies were performed. No perioperative deaths occurred. There were 20 primary and 14 secondary amputations. Factors associated with amputation were high-velocity injuries, delay in revascularization in excess of 7 h, arterial transection, associated fracture, and compartment syndrome or muscle infarction.


Civilian popliteal gunshot injuries are attended by a high amputation rate. Prompt resuscitation and revascularization appear to be the only correctable factors that may improve limb salvage rates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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