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J Vasc Surg. 1990 Apr;11(4):544-8.

Penetrating extremity trauma: identification of patients at high-risk requiring arteriography.

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Department of Surgery, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, Newark 07103-2757.


Indications for arteriography in patients with penetrating trauma to the extremities remain controversial. Some clinicians have recommended universal use of arteriography, whereas others prefer to rely on physical findings alone. To better define our indications for contrast studies, we reviewed clinical data on 306 patients (349 extremities) with penetrating trauma who were admitted during a prior 2-year period (1985 to 1987). Injuries were caused by stab wounds in 50 (14.3%) extremities and by gunshot wounds in 299 (85.7%) extremities. Twenty-seven of the 50 stab wounds (54%) required urgent exploration based on physical findings, whereas 23 underwent arteriography. None of these studies showed unsuspected arterial injury. Twenty-nine of 299 gunshot wounds (9.7%) underwent mandatory exploration, and arteriograms were performed on 270 extremities; findings in 30 studies (11.1%) were positive for unsuspected arterial injuries. Gunshot wounds were categorized according to location and number of arteriograms with positive results. Arteriograms of lateral thigh and upper arm injuries resulted in no positive outcomes. Positive study results were recorded in 22.9% of calf injuries, 20% of forearm and antecubital injuries, 9.5% of popliteal fossa injuries, 9.0% of medial and posterior thigh injuries, and 8.3% of medial and posterior upper arm injuries. We recommend arteriography for penetrating injuries to these high-risk areas. However, clinical evaluation alone is accurate for identification of arterial trauma with lateral thigh or upper arm wounds and stab wounds to the extremities.

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