Traumatic popliteal arterial injury carries the greatest risk of limb loss among all peripheral vascular injuries and is associated with high levels of morbidity and worse functional outcomes. The purpose of this study is to analyse the functional outcome among patients with popliteal artery injury (PAI) due to blunt and penetrating trauma and identify influencing factors.
We critically reviewed 64 cases of PAI due to blunt and penetrating trauma treated at our institution over a 20-year period. We evaluated the influence of parameters, such as patient demographics, injury mechanism, initial ISS and performed interventions, on limb amputation rates and functional outcomes. Functional outcome was examined within the 12-months follow-up using the Functional Independence Measure (FIM) score for feeding, expression and locomotion. FIM scores for each category ranged from 1 (full assistance required) to 4 (fully independent), with a maximum total FIM score of 12 representing full independence.
The mechanism of injury was blunt in 55 % and penetrating in 45 % of the patients. The overall amputation rate in our series was 28 %. Out of these, 83.3 % of all performed amputations in our series were due to blunt trauma and 88.6 % of all blunt trauma patients were severely injured (ISS > 9) or polytraumatized (ISS > 15). Blunt mechanism of injury has also shown a negative effect on the functional outcome. Analysis of the 1-year clinical follow-up showed that 30 patients (65.3 %) returned to their normal activity level within 1 year after trauma. A total of 16 patients (34.7 %) were recorded to have limited activity levels, 76.5 % of them sustained a blunt trauma. Using the FIM score to quantify the level of disability, we detected significantly worse results in both FIM total (8.8 vs. 10.4) and FIM locomotion score (3.1 vs. 2.7) following blunt trauma.
The main findings of the present study were that PAI due to blunt trauma is associated with a high percentage of severely injured or even polytraumatized patients. Amputation rates following blunt trauma were significantly higher compared to penetrating trauma. Functional independence measurement, assessed 12 months after injury, also showed significantly worse results in both FIM total and FIM locomotion score after blunt trauma. Other factors that seem to have a negative influence on the outcome in terms of amputation rates after PAI are patient’s age, presence of associated injuries and prolonged lower extremity ischemia.