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May 1985

Arterial ThromboembolismA 20-Year Perspective

Author Affiliations

From the Peninsula Vascular Associates, San Mateo, Calif (Drs Tawes, Harris, Brown, Sydorak, Beare, and Scribner), and the Cardiovascular Surgical Group, Redwood City, Calif (Drs Shoor, Zimmerman, and Fogarty).

Arch Surg. 1985;120(5):595-599. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1985.01390290073012

• Our experience with 739 patients with lower extremity thromboembolism since the advent of the balloon catheter has led us to several important observations: (1) As the etiology has shifted from rheumatic to atherosclerotic, we treat a more complex group of patients, one fourth of whom have severe, preexisting peripheral occlusive disease. (2) Early diagnosis and treatment is essential to decrease the mortality and morbidity, which has ranged about 25% ±10%. (3) Anticoagulation must be continued in the postoperative period, accepting wound hematomas as a fair "trade-off" to prevent recurrent embolus and distal thrombosis in areas inaccessible to the catheter. (4) Postoperative use of heparin "buys time" to further assess marginal results of embolectomy allowing arteriography and careful planning of secondary operations to assure not only a viable but a functional limb. There is little mention in the literature to emphasize this approach, which we think is essential for long-term salvage. Early in the series, patients were treated with heparin or embolectomy alone. There were 161 secondary operations In 135 patients following embolectomy consisting of repeated thromboembolectomy, popliteal exploration, sympathectomy, bypass graft(s), angioplasty, and endarterectomy. Additionally, 44 patients had a direct attack correcting the cardiac source of their embolism. Our overall mortality (12%) and limb salvage (95%) shows marked improvement compared with earlier reports. Therefore, we recommend combined embolectomy and heparin as the primary choice of therapy.

(Arch Surg 1985;120:595-599)

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