Diagnosis and long-term clinical outcome in patients diagnosed with hand ischemia

Robert B. McLafferty, James M. Edwards, Lloyd M. Taylor, John M. Porter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Purpose: The long-term clinical outcome of patients diagnosed with digital artery obstruction and symptomatic hand ischemia is largely unknown. Our long-term experience with the diagnosis of symptomatic digital artery obstruction and the long-term natural history of this condition forms the basis for this report. Methods: From 1971 to 1985, 44 patients with symptomatic hand ischemia and palmar or digital arterial obstruction underwent arteriography and digital photoplethysmography (PPG). Patients were grouped according to severity of hand ischemia symptoms, including ulceration and digital amputation and the presence of a connective tissue disease (CTD). Arteriography was compared with PPG by creating an objective severity scale (digital obstruction index [DOI]). Results: Average follow-up was 15.2 years (range 10 to 22 years). Initially 21 patients (48%) had moderate symptoms, and 23 patients (52%) had severe symptoms of hand ischemia. Follow-up symptoms in 28 patients improved (13 of 26 with CTD, 15 of 18 without CTD), in 15 patients (12 of 26 with CTD, 3 of 18 without CTD) remained unchanged, and in only 1 patient (1 of 26 with CTD) worsened. Seventeen (65%) patients with CTD (n = 26) had development of one or more ulcers, and six (24%) underwent one or more digital amputations. Four (22%) patients without CTD (n = 18) had finger ulceration (p < 0.012 compared with patients with CTD), and one patient (6%) underwent subsequent digital amputation (p = NS). The arteriography-DOI and PPG-DOI were equally accurate in determining severity of finger ischemia as manifested by severity of symptoms or ulcer development. Conclusions: The favorable long-term prognosis of symptomatic finger artery occlusion described herein mandates the avoidance of premature finger amputation. Patients with CTD fare worse, but even in this group tissue loss is modest. Finger PPG is as accurate as arteriography for determining severity of hand ischemia. (J VASC SURG 1995;22:361-9.).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-369
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of vascular surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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