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Br J Surg. 1989 Jun;76(6):585-8.

Lower limb vein trauma: a long-term clinical and physiological assessment.

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Department of Surgery, University of Cape Town, South Africa.


The aim of this study was to assess the long-term clinical and physiological sequelae of lower limb venous trauma in a civilian practice. Twenty-six patients who had undergone surgery for lower limb venous trauma (median elapsed time 19.5 months) underwent assessment. Injuries had been sustained to the external iliac, common femoral superficial femoral and popliteal veins in two, four, nine and eleven limbs respectively. Using clinical assessment, photoplethysmography recovery time, the presence of popliteal reflux and venographic evidence of thrombosis, the final outcome was graded as good, fair or poor. Fourteen patients had pedal oedema, including two with a postphlebitic limb. The overall photoplethysmography recovery time (mean and s.d.) was 20.6 (8.7) s in the injured and 32.1 (6.7) s in the non-injured limbs (P = 0.002). Patients with a venographically occluded vein had a shorter photoplethysmography recovery time than those in whom the vein was patent (13.4 (5.6) versus 21.6 (8.7) s; P = 0.07). Popliteal reflux was present in 12 injured limbs. Seven of 12 venograms performed on limbs with a vein repair had evidence of previous thrombosis. Vein ligation carried considerable morbidity and all end-to-end anastomoses initially failed. In retrospect, saphenous vein grafts were too narrow for the recipient veins and panel grafts might have been more appropriate. Overall 11 of 26 patients (42 per cent) had a poor result. The repair of choice is a saphenous vein patch for lesser injuries and a saphenous panel graft for major injuries. Vein ligation should be avoided unless another life-threatening injury demands priority.

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