Vascular Injury in Trauma
The vascular system is made up of vessels
that carry blood throughout the body.
Arteries and veins carry this blood to and
from the heart and carry oxygen to all parts
of the body.
In this type of injury, there is damage to
blood vessels as they are torn or cut by
piercing or crushing injuries, such as
a gunshot wound or stab wound.
blunt trauma that results in bone
fractures or joint dislocation.
When there is not enough blood supply, the
blood vessels, nerves, and muscles can
quickly become permanently damaged and
What are symptoms of blood vessel
Bruising, swelling, active bleeding.
Numbness, tingling in that arm or leg.
Cannot move the arm or leg.
Cool, pale skin.
What tests will be done?
Blood vessel studies such as arteriogram,
CT angiogram, venogram are used to find
the injury to your arteries or veins.
Contrast dye is injected through an IV so
the blood vessels can be seen when an X-
ray or CT scan is taken.
Ultrasound can be done to look at the
blood vessels and see how well the blood is
flowing through them.
Ankle/brachial index (ABI) & pulse
volume recording (PVR) are screening
tests that assess how much blood is flowing
to the legs. They also find out if there are
What is the treatment?
Immediately: Your injured limb will be
closely watched for further injury. As soon
as possible, the limb should be immobilized
and placed in the correct position by a
doctor. Raising the limb can reduce
swelling and improve blood flow. If caused
by bone fractures, the bone will be placed in
alignment with traction or an external fixator
to help improve blood flow.
In the hospital: You will be given fluids or
blood to replace what was lost. You may be
given antibiotics and a tetanus shot to
prevent infection. An anticoagulant, such as
heparin or enoxaparin, may be given to
prevent a blood clot from forming. Surgery
may be done to repair any damaged blood
vessels. Your fingers or toes will be
checked often for color, temperature, feeling,
and circulation. Early rehabilitation of the
limb is vital once it is stabilized. This will
prevent loss of muscle tone and strength.
You will work with staff from physical and
What are the complications?
Shock can occur when too much
blood is lost. It may be treated by
giving fluids and blood through an
If your nerves have been injured,
you could lose some or all feeling
and function. This type of injury
requires physical therapy, along with
a chance of surgery.
Symptoms of a blood clot include
swelling, change in temperature,
numbness or tingling, and pain in
your arm or leg. This can be life
threatening if the clot comes loose in
the blood vessel and travels to your
Compartment syndrome is caused
by increased pressure inside your
arm or leg from bleeding or swelling,
or a tight dressing. Your nerves,
blood vessels, and muscles can be
damaged if the pressure is not
released. Your caregivers will
closely watch the circulation, feeling,
and movement of your arm or leg.
Treatment includes raising your arm
or leg. You may also have the
pressure released by the surgeon
making an incision called a
When should I call the doctor after I go
Severe or constant pain not relieved
by medicine and raising the limb.
Your hand or foot becomes cold,
pale, numb, blue, or cannot move.
Swelling, weakness, numbness, or
tingling in your arm or leg.
If you have had surgery, check your
wounds for signs and symptoms of
infection which include increased
pain, swelling, redness, drainage, or
Patients of the Vascular Clinic at the West Clinic call (608)263-8915.
Patients of the Orthopedic Clinic call (608)263-7540.
Patients of the Trauma Clinic call (608)263-7502.
After hours, nights, weekends and holidays, this will give you the paging operator. Ask for the
resident on call for your clinic. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The
doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call 1-800-323-8942 and ask for your clinic.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©6/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6933.