Role of Vascular and Interventional Radiology in the Diagnosis and Management of Acute Trauma Patients

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Vascular and interventional radiology provides an important service in the diagnosis and management of the acute trauma patient. Historically angiography was used primarily as a diagnostic tool for both vascular and solid organ injuries. However, with technological advances, such as the advent of stents, stent grafts, newer embolization materials and sophisticated delivery devices, micro-catheters, and steerable guide wires, vascular and interventional radiology can now offer definitive treatment in selected cases. Transcatheter embolization can effectively treat acute hemorrhage and is useful in locations that are difficult to access surgically, or when surgical disruption of fascial planes, which may eliminate a tamponade effect, is less desirable. Stents and stent grafts have been used to preserve, rather than sacrifice, an injured blood vessel. In splenic, hepatic, and renal trauma, a trend in nonoperative management has been developed by traumatologists. Transcatheter embolization can increase the success rate of nonoperative management in selected injuries. In general, despite the injury grade, if evidence of ongoing hemorrhage is present, angiography and transcatheter embolization should be considered. Peripheral vascular injuries can be treated with transcatheter embolization or stents and stent grafts. Transcatheter embolization in trauma was first applied to bleeding associated with pelvic fractures and dislocations, and continues to be an important treatment option. Carotid and vertebral artery injuries can now be repaired using stents or stent grafts, although the experience of this treatment strategy is somewhat limited. Likewise, acute traumatic aortic injury has been successfully treated with stent grafts in small series. Conventional catheter thoracic aortography is now used as an adjunctive diagnostic test for indeterminate or questionable findings on noninvasive imaging studies, primarily computed tomography scans of the chest. In summary, vascular and interventional radiology maintains an important role in the diagnosis and management of acute vascular and solid organ injury. The following review illustrates its current status in acute trauma.

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