The term "vascular trauma" refers to injury to a blood vessel—an artery, which carries blood to an extremity or an organ, or a vein, which returns blood to the heart. Vascular Surgeons categorize these injuries by the type of trauma that caused them: blunt or penetrating injury.

  • A blunt injury can occur when a blood vessel is crushed or stretched.
  • A penetrating injury can occur when a blood vessel is punctured, torn or severed.
  • Either type of vascular trauma can cause the blood vessel to clot (thrombosis) and interrupt blood flow to an organ or extremity, or cause bleeding which can lead to life-threatening hemorrhage.


  • If your knee dislocates, your popliteal artery (the vessel just behind the knee) is likely to be injured, too. Trauma to the popliteal artery often causes injury to the calf muscle and the repair process is lengthy.
  • If you fracture your upper arm bone (humerus) just above the elbow (supracondylar humerus fracture), you may also have injured the blood vessel that crosses the elbow joint (brachial artery).
  • Bleeding form a wound.


Many accidents and activities can lead to vascular trauma, including:

  • Home accidents.
  • Bicycle and motorized vehicle accidents while driving or riding.
  • Job-related accidents.
  • Athletic injuries.
  • Falls.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Combat injuries.
  • Violent crime.


A vascular injury can sometimes be diagnosed by physical examination alone. In the case of multiple injuries, deciding which of the problems needs to be dealt with most urgently is jointly made by medical specialists. These specialists often include trauma surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and neurosurgeons among others.

Many vascular injuries can be subtle. Diagnostic imaging may be required to understand the nature and scope of the injury, and how best to treat it. Duplex ultrasound scanning, CT scanning, or angiography are options.

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