Distal embolization of fragmented laminated thrombus and atheroma producing peripheral ischemia or gangrene is an underemphasized complication of arterial reconstruction. A set of techniques has been developed to minimize this important complication. To assess their effectiveness, the incidence of distal embolism in patients undergoing resection of abdominal aortic aneurysm with and without the use of these techniques was studied. In the 434 patients who underwent elective resection of abdominal aneurysm, measures to prevent distal embolism were used in all cases. The incidence of distal embolism was only 0.23 per cent (1 of 434), in contrast to reported incidences of up to 11 per cent. In the 21 patients who underwent emergency resection of ruptured aneurysm, these techniques were not used due to the need for early proximal control for resuscitation; distal embolism of atheromatous material occurred in 2 cases, an incidence of 9 per cent. The application of these techniques to other peripheral vascular procedures has resulted in similar low rates of postoperative distal ischemia.
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