Advances in the care and rehabilitation of patients with spinal cord injuries (SCI) have resulted in extended survival following injury. Increasingly, we are faced with difficult chronic lower extremity ischemic complications in SCI patients. Recognizing limitations associated with amputation in these nonambulatory patients, we report the preliminary results of a program of selective limb salvage via arterial reconstructive surgery. Retrospective chart review was performed on the records of the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System SCI unit. Since 1989, 15 revascularization procedures were identified in 10 SCI patients. All patients suffered from ischemic ulceration and/or gangrene. Procedures performed included femorotibial bypass (8), aortofemoral bypass (4), femoro-femoral bypass (2), and axillobifemoral bypass (AXF) (1). All patients were men. The mean age was 56 (range 43-73). Follow-up was available on 10 procedures performed in seven patients since 1992. Mean follow-up was 17 months. One patient died 3 months following distal bypass. The AXF occluded within 1 month. One distal bypass occluded in the immediate postoperative period and could not be salvaged. All other grafts remain patent, and all wounds have healed following successful bypass. One patient developed pressure ulceration following AXF grafting due to postoperative upper extremity limitations. No other complications were encountered. Standard arterial reconstructive procedures can be performed safely and successfully in SCI patients, despite diminished limb blood flow due to inactivity, and atrophic arteries, muscle, and fascia. Axillobifemoral bypass grafting may not be suitable in SCI due to requirements for upper extremity-based mobility. Confirmation of benefit of limb salvage versus amputation awaits comparison between patients eligible for either procedure.
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View details for PubMedID 9451998