Vascular injuries in lower limbs are rare but serious events. If not detected and managed correctly and timely they can lead to permanent functional impairment and even limb loss. The increasing number of orthopaedic interventions, worldwide, makes awareness of this problem among orthopaedic surgeons important.
The overall aim of this thesis was to describe lower limb orthopaedic injuries with associated concomitant arterial injuries, especially to the popliteal artery. Epidemiology, mechanisms of injury, management, outcomes and the patient perspective were all addressed. The research questions were generated from clinical praxis.
Vascular injuries are rare events, but by using as the National Patient (NPR) and National Vascular registries (Swedvasc) a relatively speaking large cohort was studied. Deep interviews with qualitative study method were used to investigate the patients’ perspective.
In papers I and II iatrogenic popliteal artery injuries (PAI) in knee-replacements, and in non-knee-replacements, were investigated. The number of knee arthroplasties in Sweden increased 1987-2008, but not the frequency of iatrogenic PAI. The most common mechanism of injury was sharp, directly to the artery. One third of the injuries resulted in pseudo-aneurysms. This was an unexpected and important finding, since these patients were often diagnosed late, resulting in poor outcome.
Paper III. The interviewed patients narrated substantial functional, cosmetic and psychological impairments,4-17 years after their accidents, yet they described their lives as “normal”. Patients with saved limbs reported a need for better interpersonal support in their rehabilitation and adaptation back to “normal” life.
Paper IV. Popliteal artery injury is feared in knee dislocations and fractures. The proportion incidence of vascular injury was previously reported to be 2-60%. In this large population-based study, the incidence proportion in knee dislocations was 3.4-8.2%, depending on the definition of dislocation/ligamentous injury. In knee fractures the incidence proportion was lower, only 0.2%. The dominating cause of arterial injury in knee dislocations was fall, in knee fractures it was motor vehicle accidents. Amputation- free survival after arterial injury was inferior in knee fractures compared with knee dislocations.
In conclusion, PAI is a serious injury but on sequences can be limited by awareness and timely action.