How common are vascular injuries in open tibial fractures? A prospective longitudinal cohort study

O. O’Malley, A. J. Trompeter, S. Krishnanandan, M. Vesely, P. Holt, G. Goh, N. Papadakos, V. Bhatia, C. B. Hing

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Background: Tibial fractures have an incidence of 15% of all adult fractures. They have been shown to have the highest incidence of non-union in long bone fractures and the highest incidence of vascular injury. Evidence from the literature suggests that a good vascular supply is important to ensure bone union. The aim of our study was to prospectively assess the incidence of vascular injuries in open tibial fractures and determine whether they were associated with an increased risk of non-union. Methods: We performed a prospective study to investigate the incidence of arterial injuries with computed tomography angiography (CTA) in patients with Gustilo–Anderson grade I–III open tibial fractures between 2013 and 2015. CTA was performed with the trauma series at acute admission and reported by two independent musculoskeletal radiologists. Patients were followed up with clinical and radiographic assessment for 1 year. Results: We recruited 77 patients into the study, and 56 patients (47 males, 9 females) were available for the final analysis, between 16 and 90 years of age. At the initial assessment, 29% had signs of arterial injury with active extravasation in 5%. The most common site of injury was in the diaphysis (87.5%), and the commonest mechanism was a road traffic accident. We found no significant relation between occult vascular injury and non-union (p > 0.05). Conclusion: The incidence of vascular injury in open tibial fractures is 29%, and CTA is therefore a useful test in identifying vascular injuries that may require vascular intervention.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery & Traumatology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Angiogram
  • Tibia
  • Vascular injury

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