Open Access Research article

Traumatic extremity arterial injury in children: Epidemiology, diagnostics, treatment and prognostic value of Mangled Extremity Severity Score

Philipp Mommsen1*, Christian Zeckey1, Frank Hildebrand1, Michael Frink1, Nawid Khaladj2, Nadine Lange1, Christian Krettek1 and Christian Probst1

Author Affiliations

1 Trauma Department, Hannover Medical School, 30625 Hannover, Germany

2 Department of Cardiac, Thoracic, Transplantation and Vascular Surgery, Hannover Medical School, 30625 Hannover, Germany

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Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research 2010, 5:25  doi:10.1186/1749-799X-5-25

Published: 15 April 2010



Traumatic paediatric arterial injuries are a great challenge due to low incidence and specific characteristics of paediatric anatomy and physiology. The aim of the present study was to investigate their epidemiology, diagnostic and therapeutic options and complications. Furthermore, the prognostic value of the Mangled Extremity Severity Score (MESS) was evaluated.


In a retrospective clinical study 44 children aged 9.0 ± 3.2 years treated for traumatic extremity arterial lesions in our Level I trauma center between 1971 and 2006 were enrolled. Exclusion criteria were age > 14, venous and iatrogenic vascular injury. Demographic data, mechanism of injury, severity of arterial lesions (by Vollmar and MESS), diagnostic and therapeutic management, complications and outcome were evaluated.


The most commonly injured vessel was the femoral artery (25%) followed by the brachial artery (22.7%). The mechanism of injury was penetrating (31.8%), isolated severe blunt extremity trauma (29.6%), multiple trauma (25%) and humeral supracondylar fractures (13.6%). In 63.6% no specific vascular diagnostic procedure was performed in favour of emergency surgery. Surgical reconstructive strategies were preferred (68.2%). A MESS < 7 was associated with initial (p < 0.05) and definite limb salvage (p < 0.001) of the lower extremity.


Traumatic paediatric vascular injuries are very rare. The most common situations of vascular lesions in childhood were penetrating injuries and fractures of the extremities either as isolated injuries or in multiply injured patients. In paediatric patients, the MESS could serve as a basis for decision making for limb salvage or amputation.