Necessity, Role, and Outcomes of Fasciotomy in Patients with Acute Limb Ischemia

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Annals of vascular surgery


BACKGROUND: The incidence of compartment syndrome in patients with acute lower limb ischemia (ALLI) and the effects of fasciotomy on outcomes are largely undefined. This study aimed to define the incidence of compartment syndrome in patients with ALLI and to examine whether different fasciotomy strategies are associated with specific patient outcomes.

METHODS: A single-center retrospective study of patients who had ALLI between April 2016 and October 2020 at a tertiary care center. Patients were categorized into groups as having received early and late therapeutic fasciotomy (TF), early prophylactic fasciotomy (PF), early exploratory fasciotomy, and no fasciotomy. Primary outcome was 30-day amputation rate. Secondary outcomes were 30-day and 1-year mortality, 1-year amputation rate, and length of stay. Groups were compared using descriptive statistics to assess the association of fasciotomy approach with outcomes.

RESULTS: During the study period, 266 patients were treated for ALLI, and 62 patients (23%) underwent 66 fasciotomies. A total of 41 TF, 23 PF, and 2 exploratory fasciotomies were done. There were 58 early fasciotomies performed (88% of 66 limbs): 33 (57%) early TF, 23 (40%) PF, and 2 (3%) exploratory. There were 8 patients who developed compartment syndrome after their revascularization operation and received delayed TF (12% of 66 limbs). The total number of TF was 41, which was 15% of all ALLI patients. The mean ± SD time to fasciotomy closure was 6.7 ± 5.7 days, which did not differ between PF and TF groups. Significantly more patients in the TF group had an amputation at 30 days (11 [29%] vs. 1 [5%]; P = 0.03) and at 1 year (6 [18%] vs. 2 [9%]; P = 0.02) than those in the PF group. Length of stay was increased in both TF (16 days) and PF (19 days) patients compared to nonfasciotomy patients (10 days; P < 0.01) but did not differ between the 2 fasciotomy groups (P = 0.4). Thirty-day limb loss was highest in patients who underwent early TF (10/33, 33%), intermediate in those with delayed TF (1/8, 13%), and lowest in PF (1/23, 5%; P = 0.03).

CONCLUSIONS: Approximately 15% of patients with ALLI in our cohort required a TF for compartment syndrome. Close postoperative monitoring of ALLI patients who did not undergo early fasciotomy did detect delayed compartment syndrome; however, this approach did not prevent limb loss. To optimize limb salvage, physicians treating patients with ALLI should be experienced in how to recognize and treat compartment syndrome.

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ePub ahead of print