The timely detection of peripheral vascular disease (PVD) in spinal cord injury (SCI) patients is difficult because the usual symptoms of claudication and rest pain are absent. In fact, the initial manifestation of PVD in SCI patients is often advanced gangrene, so that healing, primarily or following major amputation, is either difficult and prolonged or impossible. In addition, sacral and ischial pressure sores common among SCI patients may be exacerbated and reconstruction made more difficult by PVD. Five SCI patients presented with lower extremity gangrene as the initial recognized manifestation of PVD at our institution between January 1992 and January 1994. All 5 patients had risk factors for PVD. Four out of ten limbs in these patients required amputation, either above the knee or below the knee. Three patients required concurrent vascular reconstruction of the aortoiliac segments, including an aortobiprofunda femoral bypass, an iliac embolectomy with femoral-femoral bypass, and iliac angioplasty. Three patients had ischial and/or sacral pressure sores that had recurred following multiple musculocutaneous flap reconstructions before vascular disease was recognized. The timely diagnosis of PVD involving the lilac segment in the SCI patient is sometimes overlooked and is often necessary to optimize the treatment of both lower extremity ulcers and sacral/ischial pressure sores common among these patients.
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