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J Vasc Surg. 2006 Jul;44(1):94-100.

Limb salvage and outcomes among patients with traumatic popliteal vascular injury: an analysis of the National Trauma Data Bank.

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General Surgery Service, Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, WA 98431-1100, USA.



Popliteal arterial trauma carries the greatest risk of limb loss of any peripheral vascular injury. The purpose of this study was to analyze outcomes after popliteal arterial injuries and identify factors contributing to disability.


A retrospective analysis was conducted of prospectively collected trauma data from the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB). We studied all patients with popliteal arterial injury in terms of demographics, injury patterns, interventions, limb salvage, resource utilization, and outcomes.


We identified 1395 popliteal arterial injuries among the 1,130,000 patients in the NTDB, for an incidence <0.2%. The patients were 82% male, with a mean age of 33 years, and they presented with a mean initial systolic blood pressure of 124 mm Hg, base deficit -4.6, injury severity score of 11.8, and an extremity abbreviated injury score of 2.6. The mechanism was blunt in 61% and penetrating in 39%, and significant baseline demographic differences existed between the two groups. Associated ipsilateral lower-extremity trauma included combined popliteal arterial and venous (AV) injuries, fractures and dislocations, and major nerve disruptions. Fasciotomies were performed in 49%, complex soft tissue repairs in 24%, and amputations in 14.5%. The overall mean hospital and intensive care unit lengths of stay were 16.9 and 5.9 days. The mean functional independence measure for locomotion was 2.8, but was significantly lower for patients with blunt trauma. In-hospital mortality was 4.5% and did not significantly differ by mechanism. Amputation rates were 15% with combined AV injuries, 21% for associated nerve injuries, 12% for major soft tissue disruptions, and 21% for femur, 12% for knee, and 20% for tibia-fibula fractures or dislocations. Among the 312 patients with combined AV injuries, those with blunt mechanism had a significantly higher amputation rate than those with penetrating injury (27% vs 9%, P < .001). Adjusting for age, gender, mechanism, and overall physiologic impact of injuries sustained, independent predictors of amputation in logistic regression analysis of the entire cohort included fracture (odds ratio [OR], 2.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.4 to 4.1), complex soft tissue injury (OR, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.2 to 3.0), nerve injury (OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.1 to 2.8), and extremity abbreviated injury score (OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.2 to 2.2).


Popliteal vascular injury remains an uncommon but challenging clinical entity associated with significant rates of limb loss, functional disability, and mortality. Blunt vs penetrating mechanism and associated musculoskeletal injuries generally involve longer hospital stays, worse functional outcomes, and twice the amputation rate.

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