Surgery of popliteal artery aneurysms: a 12-year experience

Asif Mahmood, Robert Salaman, Martin Sintler, Simon R G Smith, Malcolm H Simms, Rajiv K Vohra
Journal of Vascular Surgery 2003, 37 (3): 586-93

BACKGROUND: Management of asymptomatic popliteal aneurysm is controversial, and the prognosis for acutely thrombosed aneurysm is notoriously poor. We evaluated the management and outcome for popliteal aneurysm.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: A retrospective review of all patients with popliteal aneurysm between 1988 and 2000 was carried out. Fifty-two limbs were operated on in 41 patients. Data collected included findings at presentation, operative details, graft patency, limb salvage, complications, and 30-day mortality.

RESULTS: Initial findings included acute ischemia (n = 14), no symptoms (n = 29), acute rupture (n = 2), chronic ischemia (n = 5), and symptoms of nerve or vein compressive (n = 2). All patients with symptomatic aneurysms and 22 patients with asymptomatic aneurysms (21 larger than 2 cm in diameter, 1 with thrombus at duplex ultrasound scanning) underwent surgery as first-line treatment. Of the 7 patients with asymptomatic aneurysm managed with surveillance with duplex ultrasound scanning, acute ischemia developed in three, 1 aneurysm ruptured, compressive symptoms developed in 1, and 2 remained asymptomatic but required surgery because of aneurysm enlargement (>2 cm). Of the 17 patients with acute ischemia, 13 had neurologic signs and underwent immediate thromboembolectomy (trifurcation alone in 8, ankle-level arteriotomy in 4) and bypass grafting (n = 12) or inlay grafting (n = 1), and the other 4 underwent intra-arterial thrombolysis initially. Of these 4 procedures, 2 were successful and had elective surgery; the other 2 required urgent surgery because of secondary distal embolism and failure of recanalization. Thirteen of the 17 grafts were to the crural vessels. Bypass grafting (medial approach) was used in 16 of the 17 patients with acute ischemia, all 5 patients with chronic ischemia, and the 8 patients with no symptoms. An inlay technique (posterior approach) was used in 16 patients with no symptoms, the 3 patients with symptoms of nerve or vein compression, and 1 patient with acute ischemia. The distal anastomoses were to the below-knee popliteal artery in 35 patients and the crural arteries in 15 patients, using autologous vein. Two of the patients with rupture underwent ligation alone, the other undergoing bypass grafting in addition. The overall 5-year primary patency rate was 69%, secondary patency rate was 87%, and limb salvage rate was 87%. Limb salvage was achieved in 14 of the 17 patients with acute ischemia. Patients with asymptomatic aneurysms had better secondary graft patency (100%) compared with symptomatic aneurysms (74%; P <.01). Acute ischemia, technique used, and crural artery grafts were not predictors of graft failure with either univariate or multivariate analysis. Symptomatic aneurysms were associated with more postoperative complications and greater 30-day mortality (4 of 28 vs 0 of 24).

CONCLUSION: Thromboembolectomy followed by crural bypass grafting is an effective treatment for popliteal aneurysm with severe acute limb ischemia. Outcome is better with surgical management of asymptomatic popliteal aneurysm compared with symptomatic aneurysm.

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