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Axillary artery injury from humeral neck fracture: a rare but disabling traumatic event.

Axillary artery injury from blunt trauma to the shoulder is uncommon. Fracture of the neck of the humerus is a rare cause of injury to the axillary artery. Four cases of axillary artery thrombosis from humeral neck fracture are reported. Each of the first 2 patients presented with a pulseless and acutely ischemic limb after a trivial fall. A repair of the axillary artery with saphenous vein interposition graft was performed in the first patient. The extremity was salvaged, but a residual radial and ulnar neurologic deficit persisted. The second patient presented with a pulseless insensate upper extremity accompanied by motor loss. He underwent primary axillary artery repair. Still early in his postoperative course, he has had global brachial plexopathy and is undergoing intensive physical therapy. The third patient had a delayed presentation of brachial plexopathy and sympathetic reflex dystrophy. Arterial reconstruction was not required owing to excellent collateralization. The fourth patient presented with a cool pulseless extremity. His recovery is nearly complete after bypass of the axillary artery with a reversed saphenous vein graft. In addition, a review of the literature revealed 24 cases of axillary artery injury associated with humeral neck fracture. The mean age was 66.6 years. The most common mechanism of injury was a fall (79%). Thirteen patients (46%) presented with a neurologic deficit. Acute ischemia was present in 68%. Physical examination predicted the arterial injury in all but 1 patient. The injured axillary artery was repaired in 26 cases. Revascularization by an interposition graft was the most common procedure. All grafts and reanastomoses were patent and led to limb salvage. Of 9 primary repairs, 3 amputations were performed. Although limb salvage rate was 89%, a good functional outcome was obtained in only half of the patients. A high index of suspicion is required for early diagnosis of axillary artery injury. Despite excellent results of vascular reconstruction, the outcome remains determined by the excessive neurologic morbidity. Recognition of the associated brachial plexus injury is essential to improve the functional outcome of this unusual arterial injury.

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