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J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1992 Mar;74(2):181-8.

Upper and lower limb fractures with concomitant arterial injury.

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Department of Traumatology, University of Freiburg, Germany.


We describe a management strategy for upper- and lower-limb fractures with associated arterial injury and report the results in 113 cases treated over a period of 18 years. Primary amputation was performed in 23 patients and of those who underwent primary vascular repair, 27 needed secondary amputation, two-thirds of them within a week of the injury. Of those requiring secondary amputation, 51.8% had ischaemia exceeding six hours, 81.4% had severe soft-tissue injury and 85.2% had type III open fractures. The patients whose limbs had been salvaged were followed up for an average of 5.6 years. The eventual outcome depended on the severity of the fracture, the degree of soft-tissue damage, the length of the ischaemic period, the severity of neurological involvement, and the presence of associated major injuries. There was a 30% incidence of long-term disability in the salvaged limbs, largely due to poor recovery of neurological function. Prompt recognition of such combined injuries is vital and requires a high index of suspicion in patients with multiple injuries and with certain fracture patterns. We recommend a multidisciplinary approach, liberal use of pre-operative angiography in upper-limb injuries and selective use of intra-operative angiography in lower-limb injuries. Stable external or internal fixation of the fractures and re-establishment of limb perfusion are urgent surgical priorities to reduce the period of ischaemia which is critical for successful limb salvage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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