Nonpenetrating subclavian artery trauma

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Nonpenetrating injury to the subclavian vessels is uncommon. During a 6-year period we have treated 167 patients with injuries to the subclavian and superior mediastinal arteries. Fifteen of these injuries (9%) occurred after blunt trauma. In 10 patients the proximal segment (first and second parts) of the artery was involved. No patient had an isolated injury; the most frequent associated injuries were rib fractures (n = 11), with the first rib being involved in four of these. Total brachial plexus disruption was found in nine patients. All patients with distal artery involvement had a clavicular fracture. All had an absent radial pulse and eight had critical ischemia of the hand. Four patients were treated nonoperatively and the remainder were treated along standard lines. Brachial plexus reconstruction was not feasible in any patient. Within 2 weeks of operation, one patient died as a result of head injuries and one required amputation because of sepsis. During a 12-month period, five regained full function, one additional patient requested above-elbow amputation after 6 months, and seven had a flail anesthetic limb. Twelve of these patients were involved in automobile accidents, eight of whom were wearing lap-shoulder harness seat belts with a loose-fitting shoulder strap component that created a characteristic abrasion pattern on the torso and chest. We conclude that the torsion-shearing motion allowed by this situation contributed significantly to the pattern of injury and a plea is made for correctly fitted restraining devices. © 1988.




Costa, M. C., & Robbs, J. V. (1988). Nonpenetrating subclavian artery trauma. Journal of Vascular Surgery, 8(1), 71–75.

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