Case series and literature review: popliteal artery injury following total knee replacement.
We present a case series and literature review of injury to the popliteal vessels during total knee replacement (TKR). This is rare but may be limb-threatening with devastating consequences for the patient. An individual surgeon will see few cases. Over a 28-month period 3913 elective TKRs were performed at three hospitals in East Anglia, United Kingdom. We present nine cases (0.23%) of popliteal artery injury following TKR. All required further investigation and intervention. The range of pathology included intra-operative haemorrhage (3 cases), thrombosis (2 cases), pseudo-aneurysm (3 cases) and arteriovenous fistula (1 case). Definitive treatment of the arterial injury was by primary repair (4 cases), interposition graft (2 cases), bypass graft (2 cases), endovascular stenting (1 case) and primary above-knee amputation (AKA; 1 case). There was morbidity in four patients: two AKAs, one case of foot-drop, and one unsightly fasciotomy scar. There was no mortality. Compared to other published studies (totalling 141 cases) complications resulting from direct arterial injury were significantly more common in our series. Incidence remains steady. More careful surgical technique may be the most effective preventative measure. Ongoing awareness is therefore essential for early diagnosis and management of this rare but serious complication.