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Published Online:https://doi.org/10.3928/01477447-20160610-06Cited by:22

Abstract

Vascular injury in orthopedic trauma is challenging. The risk to life and limb can be high, and clinical signs initially can be subtle. Recognition and management should be a critical skill for every orthopedic surgeon. There are 5 types of vascular injury: intimal injury (flaps, disruptions, or subintimal/intramural hematomas), complete wall defects with pseudoaneurysms or hemorrhage, complete transections with hemorrhage or occlusion, arteriovenous fistulas, and spasm. Intimal defects and subintimal hematomas with possible secondary occlusion are most commonly associated with blunt trauma, whereas wall defects, complete transections, and arteriovenous fistulas usually occur with penetrating trauma. Spasm can occur after either blunt or penetrating trauma to an extremity and is more common in young patients. Clinical presentation of vascular injury may not be straightforward. Physical examination can be misleading or initially unimpressive; a normal pulse examination may be present in 5% to 15% of patients with vascular injury. Detection and treatment of vascular injuries should take place within the context of the overall resuscitation of the patient according to the established principles of the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) protocols. Advances in the field, made mostly during times of war, have made limb salvage the rule rather than the exception. Teamwork, familiarity with the often subtle signs of vascular injuries, a high index of suspicion, effective communication, appropriate use of imaging modalities, sound knowledge of relevant technique, and sequence of surgical repairs are among the essential factors that will lead to a successful outcome. This article provides a comprehensive literature review on a subject that generates significant controversy and confusion among clinicians involved in the care of trauma patients. [Orthopedics. 2016; 39(4):249–259.]

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