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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Acute Thromboembolism from Trauma in a Patient with Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

  • Author(s): Sebt, Solomon
  • Kim, Chris
  • Hoonpongsimanont, Wirachin
  • Leroux, Eric
  • et al.

Case Presentation: A 64-year-old man with a history of a 5.5-centimeter (cm) abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) presented to the emergency department (ED) complaining of severe back pain after climbing over a fence and falling a distance of eight feet. Prior to arrival, the prehospital paramedics reported that the patient did not have palpable pulses in either lower extremity. The initial physical examination in the ED was significant for absent dorsalis pedis pulses bilaterally as well as absent posterior tibialis pulses bilaterally and cold, insensate lower extremities. Point-of-care ultrasound identified an approximate 7-cm infrarenal AAA with a mural thrombus present. After receiving several computed tomography (CT) studies including CT head without contrast and CT angiography of the chest, abdomen and pelvis, the patient was diagnosed with acute thrombosis of AAA and associated thromboembolic occlusion of both his right and left distal iliac vessels causing bilateral acute limb ischemia. He immediately received unfractionated heparin and was admitted to the hospital for embolectomy and intra-arterial tissue plasminogen activator.

Discussion: Acute thrombosis of AAA and subsequent thromboembolic events are a rare but significant complication that can occur in patients with a history of AAA. Thromboembolic events may occur spontaneously or in the setting of blunt abdominal trauma. Common presenting signs and symptoms include distal limb ischemia and absent femoral pulses. Timely management and recognition of this rare complication is vital as this condition can ultimately result in limb loss or death if not treated in a timely manner. Heparinization after confirmation of non-ruptured AAA as well as vascular surgery, and therapeutic and vascular interventional radiology consultations are key steps that should be taken to decrease patient morbidity and mortality.

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