Military vascular injury to the torso is deadly

Outcomes are described for military personnel with vascular injury sustained in Afghanistan and Iraq.

BACKGROUND: Military injuries to named blood vessels are complex limb- and life-threatening wounds that pose significant difficulties in prehospital and surgical management. The aim of this study was to provide a comprehensive description of the epidemiology, treatment and outcome of vascular injury among service personnel deployed on operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

METHODS: Data from the British Joint Theatre Trauma Registry were combined with hospital records to review all cases of vascular trauma in deployed service personnel over a 5-year interval ending in January 2008.

RESULTS: Of 1203 injured service personnel, 110 sustained injuries to named vessels; 66 of them died before any surgical intervention. All 25 patients who sustained an injury to a named vessel in the abdomen or thorax died; 24 did not survive to undergo surgery and one casualty in extremis underwent a thoracotomy, but died. Six of 17 patients with cervical vascular injuries survived to surgical intervention; two died after surgery. Of 76 patients with extremity vascular injuries, 37 survived to surgery with one postoperative death. Interventions on 38 limbs included 19 damage control procedures (15 primary amputations, 4 vessel ligations) and 19 definitive limb revascularization procedures (11 interposition vein grafts, 8 direct repairs), four of which failed necessitating three amputations.

CONCLUSION: In operable patients with extremity injury, amputation or ligation is often required for damage control and preservation of life. Favourable limb salvage rates are achievable in casualties able to withstand revascularization. Despite marked progress in contemporary battlefield trauma care, torso vascular injury is usually not amenable to surgical intervention.

Outcome after vascular trauma in a deployed military trauma system
Br J Surg. 2011 Feb;98(2):228-34