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Vascular Trauma

Vascular trauma, or damage to a blood vessel, can happen to anyone. Often the result of an accident or injury, a vascular trauma can be mild, moderate, or severe. Some common symptoms of vascular trauma are bleeding, bruising, and fractured bones.

The experts in the UPMC Division of Vascular Surgery provide the latest treatments for vascular trauma, from minor injuries to emergencies. Vascular trauma can go away on its own, but severe instances may require surgery.

Contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

To request an appointment, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute:

What Is Vascular Trauma?

Arteries and veins make up the vascular system.

  • Arteries carry blood away from the heart.
  • Veins carry blood back to the heart.

Vascular trauma means that a blood vessel has sustained some kind of injury.

Sometimes, these injuries involve a tear or puncture that causes blood loss. Other times they cause damage to the vessel from crushing or twisting.

Vascular trauma risk factors and causes

Anyone can experience vascular trauma because of an injury — whether intentional or unintentional.

Vascular trauma causes

Vascular trauma can result from a wide range of causes, including:

  • Injury (accidents, falls, cuts, etc.).
  • Violence.
  • Pinching of a vein or artery (internal or external).
  • Dislocation of a bone.
  • Piercing of a vein, such as with insertion of an IV.

Vascular trauma complications

Vascular trauma can lead to a number of complications, including:

  • Loss of blood, sometimes a large amount.
  • Formation of a blood clot (thrombosis).
  • Bruising and swelling.
  • Soreness or pain.
  • Scarring.

Scarring or incomplete healing can cause permanent weakness in the artery or vein, which makes it more prone to future injury.

Blood clots can cause a blockage of blood flow. A clot becomes especially dangerous when it breaks off and travels through to another part of the body, like the heart, lungs, or brain.

If you or someone else is experiencing significant blood loss, contact a medical professional right away.

Vascular Trauma Symptoms and Diagnosis

Any kind of bleeding — whether inside or outside the body — is a sign of vascular trauma.

If you've crushed a vein or artery, you may feel pain or pressure, and see or feel a lump or bruise.

Vascular trauma symptoms

Symptoms of vascular trauma can include:

  • Bleeding
  • Swelling and/or pain
  • Bruising
  • A lump beneath your skin

Vascular trauma diagnosis

A diagnosis of vascular trauma is obvious if you have sustained an injury that causes bleeding.

If pinching, twisting, or a blood clot caused the injury, you may need a more thorough exam and further testing.

Tests to help your doctor confirm a vascular trauma diagnosis include:

  • Ultrasound imaging
  • CT scan
  • Angiography

Vascular Trauma Treatment

In many cases, a mild vascular trauma may be able to heal on its own.

Doctors treat more severe cases through surgery to repair the damaged vessels.