Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Share this article on:

Aberrant Obturator Artery Is a Common Arterial Variant That May Be a Source of Unidentified Hemorrhage in Pelvic Fracture Patients

Requarth, Jay A. MD, FACS; Miller, Preston R. MD, FACS

Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery: February 2011 - Volume 70 - Issue 2 - p 366-372
doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3182050613
Original Article

Background: Similar to all pelvic arteries, the aberrant obturator artery (AOA) and its branches are at risk for injury when the pelvic ring is fractured; however, because of its unique origin, bleeding from this artery may be unrecognized and, thus, treatment ineffective. The purpose of this study was to describe the incidence of the AOA using angiography and determine the sensitivity of 64-slice computed tomography angiography (CTA) at identifying the AOA.

Methods: Imaging from patients undergoing pelvic angiography, for any reason, during 2009 was retrospectively reviewed to determine the incidence of the AOA. The angiographically determined arterial anatomy was the compared with CTA findings.

Results: Pelvic angiography, performed in 174 patients, identified the AOA in 60.0% of males, 52.3% of females, 55.1% of all patients, and 38.4% of hemipelvises. The sensitivity/specificity of CTA at identifying the AOA is 90.0%/100% and 63.6%/92.3% in nonpelvic fracture and pelvic fracture patients, respectively; the sensitivity difference being significant (p = 0.0351). Three of the 13 (23.1%) AOA identified in pelvic fracture patients demonstrated extravasation when the inferior epigastric artery was cannulated; however, flush angiography failed to demonstrate the extravasation.

Conclusions: The AOA is a common arterial variant occurring in more than half of the population and, if present in pelvic fracture patients, commonly injured. Although CTA is effective at identifying the AOA in nonpelvic trauma patients, it is not as effective in pelvic fracture patients. Failure to consider this arterial variant may result in untreated arterial bleeding with the attendant consequences.

From the Section of Vascular and Interventional Radiology (J.A.R.), Department of Radiologic Sciences, and Section of Emergency Surgery (P.R.M.), Department of Surgery, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston Salem, North Carolina.

Submitted for publication September 8, 2010.

Accepted for publication November 3, 2010.

Address for reprints: Jay A. Requarth, MD, FACS, Section of Vascular and Interventional Radiology, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Medical Center Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27157; email:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.