Purpose To review the literature pertaining to inadvertent intra-arterial drug injection in the upper extremity, explore the various treatment options and their outcomes, and identify risk factors for limb amputation following intra-arterial injection. Methods A systematic review of Medline, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases (inception to March 2013) was completed for patients presenting with intra-arterial drug injection of the upper extremity. Details on intervention and outcome were extracted and subjected to pooled analysis with amputation as the primary outcome. Results A total of 25 articles (209 patients) were included for review. Mean patient age was 31 ± 8 years (male, 71%; female, 29%). Prescription opioids (33%) were the most commonly injected substance, and the brachial artery (39%) was the most common site. The overall weighted mean amputation incidence was 29%. Anticoagulants were the most common treatment used (77%). From pooled analysis, conditions requiring antibiotic use were significantly associated with a higher incidence of amputation; whereas use of steroids was associated with a lower incidence of amputation. Patients presenting 14 hours or more after injection and those injecting crushed pills rather than pure substances had significantly higher incidences of amputation. Conclusions Intra-arterial drug injection of the upper extremity carries an amputation incidence of nearly 30%. Conditions requiring adjunctive antibiotic use and delay in receiving care were both significantly associated with higher incidences of amputation. No single treatment protocol to date has established superiority.
- drug abuse
- hand ischemia
- intra-arterial injections
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine