UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Vascular

Title: Management of Ruptured AV Fistula

Keywords: AV Fistula (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/13/2008 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 5/21/2024)
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Management of Ruptured AV Fistula

This pearl pertains to a case I had 2 weeks ago. A 65 yo male presented with a massively swollen left forearm in the region of his AV fistula. On ultrasound he had a 6 X 6 cm aneurysm. He was seen by vascular and transplant surgery and taken to the OR for repair.

So, the question came up, what would an emergency physician do if this bad boy actually ruptured? Well, obviously we would hold pressure. But what if that didn't work? Well, shouldn't the patient go to the OR? The answer is a resounding yes, but what if there is no surgeon around. There is not much literature on how to handle this devastating vascular catastrophe.

As a rule of thumb, if an AV Fistula ruptures (not leaks) and the patient is exsanguinating in front of you:

  • Strongly consider a tourniquet (don't worry about the arm, they are about to die). Yes, that is right, a tourniquet. Sounds like common sense, but according to the vascular surgeons I have spoken with, too often this isn't done, and the patient ends up dying. If the patient is dying, tie the arm off.
  • Consult a vascular surgeon ASAP



J Vasc Surg 2005