Popliteal traumatic arteriovenous fistulas

Nenad Ilijevski, Djordje Radak, Bozina Radević, Dragan Sagić, Goran Kronja, Sidor Misović, Aleksandar Simić, Miodrag Jevtić
Journal of Trauma 2002, 52 (4): 739-44

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this report is to analyze the clinical presentation, diagnosis, and outcome of surgical treatment in patients with popliteal arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs) in order to make trauma surgeons aware of the various issues patients with popliteal AVFs might present.

METHODS: From 1991 to 2000, 49 patients were treated for traumatic AVF. Among these patients, seven suffered from popliteal AVF of various durations. The patients were men and ranged in age from 17 to 27 years, with a mean age of 22.4 years. The time from injury to admission to our institutions varied from 5 days to 2 years. A diagnosis of popliteal AVF was made after clinical examinations revealed thrill and bruit over the injury sites. The diagnosis was confirmed in four of the patients after they underwent angiography. Patients with long-standing popliteal AVF underwent cardiology examinations to check for signs of heart failure. All patients with popliteal AVF received surgical treatment. Five patients had major blood vessels reconstructed, one patient had a minor blood vessel ligated, and another patient had a minor blood vessel reconstructed.

RESULTS: Five of the seven patients experienced no postoperative difficulties. No serious heart failure occurred; however, there were signs of cardiac overload in three of the five patients. The two remaining patients of the seven underwent leg amputations. However, one of the two patients had a gangrenous foot at admission to our institution, and vascular reconstruction on the other patient was unsuccessful. For all seven patients, the average hospital stay in the vascular surgery department was 16.2 days and the follow-up ranged from 2 to 44 months, with a mean of 21.5 months.

CONCLUSION: Trauma of the popliteal space requires special attention, since blood vessel injuries in that zone might result in serious complications. Popliteal traumatic AVFs result in a high rate of leg amputation and long-standing fistulas produce cardiac overload. The presence of thrill and bruit over the injury site should alert the examiner to consider the existence of AVF. Angiography is a reliable diagnostic tool, and should be used in all vitally stable patients. Surgical or nonsurgical closure of AVF will prevent local and systemic complications that might be irreversible in long-standing fistulas.

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