Management of true aneurysms distal to the axillary artery

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To delineate management strategies and outcomes for true aneurysms involving arteries of the upper extremity distal to the axillary artery. The management of these rare lesions has not been well established in the literature.


Retrospective chart review was performed at tertiary referral centers. All patients who received the diagnosis of true upper extremity aneurysms distal to the axillary artery between 1975 and 1995 were included in the review. Nineteen patients were found; seven were excluded because no confirmatory diagnostic imaging study or operative exploration was performed. This represents the largest reported series of true upper extremity arterial aneurysms.


Twelve patients (9 men or boys) had 12 confirmed true aneurysms of the brachial or more distal arteries. The average diameters were as follows: brachial artery 4.6 cm, radial artery 2.0 cm, ulnar artery 1.4 cm, and digital artery 0.8 cm. The mean age was 51 years (range, 10 to 86 years). The most common presentation was the presence of a mass. This occurred among eight patients (67%). Four patients (33%) reported pain or paresthesia. One patient (8%) had cold intolerance only. Three patients (25%) had thromboembolic complications. Complications did not consistently correlate with size or presence of intramural thrombus. Three aneurysms (25%) were initially managed nonoperatively and followed for a mean period of 71 months. One of these required operative repair after 5 months because of progressive pain. Ten patients (83%) were treated surgically as follows: five underwent ligation and excision only, and five underwent excision and revascularization. Morbidity was minimal, and there were no perioperative deaths.


True arterial aneurysms of the upper extremity distal to the axillary artery are rare and most commonly caused by blunt trauma. Fifty-eight percent of these lesions present with symptoms or complications. Thirty-three percent of asymptomatic lesions later become symptomatic. These factors combined with the minimal morbidity associated with repair suggest that operative repair should be routinely performed for these aneurysms. Revascularization can be performed selectively.

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