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Outcomes of Acute Limb Ischaemia in Patients with Underlying Malignancy: A Systematic Review

Open AccessPublished:November 05, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejvsvf.2021.10.019

      Highlights

      • Review of data on acute limb ischaemia in the presence of underlying malignancy.
      • Demonstrates acceptable short and medium term survival rates.
      • Such patients should be considered for revascularisation.

      Objective

      Previous studies have demonstrated amputation and mortality rates to be 14.3% – 30% and 11.4% – 28.9%, respectively, for all patients presenting with acute limb ischaemia (ALI). Rates of ALI are higher in patients with malignancy than in those without. Despite this, there remains uncertainty with regards to the most appropriate management for patients with cancer presenting with ALI. This is because of previously published high rates of associated morbidity and mortality in this population. The aim of this review was to summarise the available evidence reporting on outcomes of ALI in patients with underlying malignancy.

      Method

      A systematic review was performed in August 2020 in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines. The Medline, Scopus, Cochrane, and Embase databases were searched with the following search string ((acute limb ischaemia) OR (acute limb ischemia)) AND ((cancer) OR (malignancy)). A total of 849 papers were identified and reviewed; six studies were included. Studies were assessed for bias using the National Institute of Health/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Quality Assessment Tool. Data including demographics, Rutherford classification, baseline performance scores, method of revascularisation, and peri-procedural outcomes were extracted and analysed. Data were pooled based on outcomes of interest and pooled prevalence was reported with 95% confidence intervals (CI).

      Results

      Six studies with 284 patients with cancer were included for analysis. The pooled overall risk of amputation was 15% (95% CI 5.9 – 26.9). The pooled 30 day mortality rate was 24% (95% CI 14.7 – 34.6).

      Conclusion

      Despite limitations of interstudy selection bias and some clinical heterogeneity, the included studies demonstrated acceptable short and medium term outcomes for patients with cancer undergoing revascularisation for acute limb ischaemia. This is in line with current recommendations that patients with underlying malignancy should be considered strongly for revascularisation.

      Keywords

      Introduction

      The incidence of acute limb ischaemia (ALI), defined as any sudden decrease in limb perfusion causing a potential threat to limb viability,
      • Norgren L.
      • Hiatt W.R.
      • Dormandy J.A.
      • Nehler M.R.
      • Harris K.A.
      • Fowkes F.G.
      Inter-Society Consensus for the Management of Peripheral Arterial Disease (TASC II).
      is 9 – 16 cases per 100 000 persons per year.
      • Creager M.A.
      • Kaufman J.A.
      • Conte M.S.
      Clinical practice. Acute limb ischemia.
      • Davies B.
      • Braithwaite B.D.
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      • Earnshaw J.J.
      Acute leg ischaemia in Gloucestershire.
      • Dryjski M.
      • Swedenborg J.
      Acute ischemia of the extremities in a metropolitan area during one year.
      ALI is a vascular emergency associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. Despite advances in the management of ALI, studies looking at all patients presenting to hospital with ALI have demonstrated short term mortality rates between 11.4% and 28.9%
      • Norgren L.
      • Hiatt W.R.
      • Dormandy J.A.
      • Nehler M.R.
      • Harris K.A.
      • Fowkes F.G.
      Inter-Society Consensus for the Management of Peripheral Arterial Disease (TASC II).
      ,
      • Fagundes C.
      • Fuchs F.D.
      • Fagundes A.
      • Poerschke R.A.
      • Vacaro M.Z.
      Prognostic factors for amputation or death in patients submitted to vascular surgery for acute limb ischemia.
      ,
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      • Wainess R.M.
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      • Dimick J.B.
      • Cowan J.A.
      • Upchurch G.R.
      • et al.
      A national and single institutional experience in the contemporary treatment of acute lower extremity ischemia.
      and amputation rates of 14.3% – 30%.
      • Norgren L.
      • Hiatt W.R.
      • Dormandy J.A.
      • Nehler M.R.
      • Harris K.A.
      • Fowkes F.G.
      Inter-Society Consensus for the Management of Peripheral Arterial Disease (TASC II).
      ,
      • Fagundes C.
      • Fuchs F.D.
      • Fagundes A.
      • Poerschke R.A.
      • Vacaro M.Z.
      Prognostic factors for amputation or death in patients submitted to vascular surgery for acute limb ischemia.
      ,
      • Eliason J.L.
      • Wainess R.M.
      • Proctor M.C.
      • Dimick J.B.
      • Cowan J.A.
      • Upchurch G.R.
      • et al.
      A national and single institutional experience in the contemporary treatment of acute lower extremity ischemia.
      The estimated five year economic cost of ALI is over €24 000 per patient.
      • Luengo-Fernandez R.
      • Howard D.P.J.
      • Nichol K.G.
      • Dobell E.
      • Rothwell P.M.
      Oxford Vascular Study
      Hospital and institutionalisation care costs after limb and visceral ischaemia benchmarked against stroke: long-term results of a population based cohort study.
      Although venous thromboembolism is a known consequence of malignancy, the relationship between cancer and acute arterial thromboembolism is less well established,
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      with evidence of increased incidence derived primarily from smaller case series.
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      ,
      • Tsang J.S.
      • Naughton P.A.
      • O'Donnell J.
      • Wang T.T.
      • Moneley D.S.
      • Kelly C.J.
      • et al.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: should we surgically intervene?.
      The increased risk of thromboembolic events in patients with cancer is complex and multifactorial; both the underlying disease and systemic treatments lead to a prothrombotic state, exacerbated by tumorigenic inflammatory responses, abnormal protein metabolism, and haemodynamic compromise leading to subsequent stasis.
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      Previous studies have demonstrated poor outcomes in patients undergoing revascularisation for acute limb ischaemia with underlying malignancy.
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      ,
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      ,
      • Ouriel K.
      • Veith F.J.
      Acute lower limb ischemia: determinants of outcome.
      Historically, ALI has been considered a terminal event for patients with active malignancy, leading to a preference for a conservative or palliative approach in this patient cohort.
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      ,
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      ,
      • El Sakka K.
      • Gambhir R.P.
      • Halawa M.
      • Chong P.
      • Rashid H.
      Association of malignant disease with critical leg ischaemia.
      ,
      • Bennett Kyla M.
      • Scarborough J.E.
      • Shortell C.K.
      • Cox M.W.
      Outcomes of surgical revascularization for lower extremity arterial thromboembolism in patients with advanced malignancy.
      However, more recent studies have challenged this viewpoint, observing similar 30 day survival rates to those without malignancy.
      • Tsang J.S.
      • Naughton P.A.
      • O'Donnell J.
      • Wang T.T.
      • Moneley D.S.
      • Kelly C.J.
      • et al.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: should we surgically intervene?.
      ,
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      These studies argue for a more nuanced approach, concluding that palliation for this group of patients could be justified only in cases of terminal cancer where short term prognosis is poor.
      • Tsang J.S.
      • Naughton P.A.
      • O'Donnell J.
      • Wang T.T.
      • Moneley D.S.
      • Kelly C.J.
      • et al.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: should we surgically intervene?.
      ,
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      Recently updated clinical practice guidelines on the management of acute limb ischaemia published by the European Society for Vascular Surgery (ESVS) 2020 recommended that active revascularisation in selected patients with an underlying malignancy should be considered, as the immediate post-operative outcome is comparable with that of patients without malignancy (Class IIa Level B).
      • Björck M.
      • Earnshaw J.J.
      • Acosta S.
      • Bastos Gonçalves F.
      • Cochennec F.
      • Debus E.S.
      • et al.
      Editor's Choice - European Society for Vascular Surgery (ESVS) 2020 Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Management of Acute Limb Ischaemia.
      This review examined the available literature from the Medline, Embase, Scopus and Cochrane databases to determine the outcomes for patients with underlying malignancy presenting with ALI.

      Method

      Protocol and information sources

      Prior to completion, the protocol for this systematic review was registered with PROSPERO (PROSPERO registration number CRD42020214083). The search was performed in August 2020 in accordance with the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines
      • Moher D.
      • Liberati A.
      • Tetzlaff J.
      • Altman D.G.
      Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement.
      using the search string ((acute limb ischaemia) OR (acute limb ischemia)) AND ((cancer) OR (malignancy)). Medline, Embase, Cochrane, and Scopus databases were searched. The search was not language restricted. Unpublished data or abstracts were not included.

      Search, eligibility criteria, and study selection

      All original articles examining the outcomes of patients with an active underlying malignancy who presented with acute limb ischaemia were included for analysis. After duplicates were removed, titles and abstracts were screened for relevance. Full texts of the remaining studies were obtained. Full text articles were reviewed independently by two reviewers (AK, CT). Decisions regarding article inclusion were resolved by consensus (AK, CT). In cases of disagreement, an external peer was consulted.

      Inclusion and exclusion criteria

      Articles were screened based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria summarised in Table 1. Full text original articles were eligible for inclusion if they described outcomes of patients with ALI and a concurrent or recently diagnosed cancer. Review articles and case reports were excluded. Case series of 10 or more participants were eligible. Published abstracts and conference proceedings were excluded. Reference lists of included studies were manually searched for relevant studies.
      Table 1Inclusion and exclusion criteria.
      Inclusion criteriaExclusion criteria
      Clinical studies reporting outcomes of acute limb ischaemia in patients with active malignancyCritical limb ischaemia
      Review articles
      Case reports
      Full text availableCadaveric studies
      Animal studies
      ALI was defined as a sudden decrease in arterial perfusion of the limb, with a potential threat to limb survival, requiring urgent evaluation and management, with symptom duration less than two weeks.
      • Björck M.
      • Earnshaw J.J.
      • Acosta S.
      • Bastos Gonçalves F.
      • Cochennec F.
      • Debus E.S.
      • et al.
      Editor's Choice - European Society for Vascular Surgery (ESVS) 2020 Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Management of Acute Limb Ischaemia.
      Studies reporting solely on critical limb ischaemia were excluded. Papers that looked at patients with a history of cancer and not specifically at patients with currently active cancer were excluded.

      Data collection process and data items

      Information was extracted from selected articles for the following variables by two independent reviewers (AK, CT): age, gender, Rutherford classification for ALI, method of revascularisation, baseline performance status, primary amputation rate, 30 day amputation rate, and 30 day morbidity and mortality rates.

      Risk of bias in individual studies

      The quality of the included studies was assessed by two independent investigators (AK, CT) according to the National Institute of Health/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH/NHLBI) Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross Sectional Studies,
      National Institutes of Health
      Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies.
      and is outlined in Table 2.
      Table 2Quality of included studies was assessed according to the National Institute of Health/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH/NHLBI) Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies.
      Silverberg et al.
      • Silverberg D.
      • Yalon T.
      • Reinitz E.R.
      • Yakubovitch D.
      • Segev T.
      • Halak M.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: aggressive treatment is justified.
      Mouhayar et al.
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      Javid et al.
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      Bennett et al.
      • Bennett Kyla M.
      • Scarborough J.E.
      • Shortell C.K.
      • Cox M.W.
      Outcomes of surgical revascularization for lower extremity arterial thromboembolism in patients with advanced malignancy.
      Morris-Stiff et al.
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      Tsang et al.
      • Tsang J.S.
      • Naughton P.A.
      • O'Donnell J.
      • Wang T.T.
      • Moneley D.S.
      • Kelly C.J.
      • et al.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: should we surgically intervene?.
      1. Was the research question or objective in this paper clearly stated?YesYesYesYesYesYes
      2. Was the study population clearly specified and defined?YesYesYesYesYesYes
      3. Was the participation rate of eligible persons at least 50%?NRNRNRNRNRNR
      4. Were all the subjects selected or recruited from the same or similar populations? Were inclusion and exclusion criteria for being in the study prespecified and applied uniformly to all participants?YesYesYesYesYesYes
      5. Was a sample size justification, power description, or variance and effect estimates provided?NRNRNRNRNRNR
      6. Were the exposure(s) of interest measured prior to the outcome(s) being measured?YesYesYesNoNoYes
      7. Was the timeframe sufficient so that one could reasonably expect to see an association between exposure and outcome if it existed?YesYesYesYesYesYes
      8. Did the study examine different levels of the exposure as related to the outcome?YesYesNoNoNoYes
      9. Were the exposure measures clearly defined, valid, reliable, and implemented consistently across all study participants?YesYesYesYesYesYes
      10. Was the exposure(s) assessed more than once over time?NANANANANANA
      11. Were the outcome measures clearly defined, valid, reliable, and implemented consistently across all study participants?YesYesYesYesYesYes
      12. Were the outcome assessors blinded to the exposure status of participants?NoNoNoNoNoNo
      13. Was loss to follow up after baseline 20% or less?YesYesYesYesYesYes
      14. Were key potential confounding variables measured and adjusted statistically for their impact on the relationship between exposure(s) and outcome(s)?YesYesNoYesNoNo
      Overall Quality RatingGoodGoodFairGoodFairFair

      Summary measures

      Continuous variables were reported as weighted mean based on study sample size, while categorical variables were reported as frequencies with percentages. Results were pooled for comparable cohorts and outcome measures.

      Synthesis of results and statistical analysis

      Statistical analysis was performed using R (R Core Team version 3.7, 2020).
      R Core Team. R
      A language and environment for statistical computing.
      Outcome data are reported as the proportion of the patients having the outcome, with 95% confidence intervals generated using an inverse variance random effects model. Heterogeneity was assessed by means of the I2 statistic, with a value of >50% considered to indicate statistically significant heterogeneity.

      Research ethics

      No ethical approval was needed because only data from previous published studies in which informed consent was obtained by primary investigators were included.

      Results

      Study selection and quality assessment

      Fig. 1 is the PRISMA flow diagram. A total of 849 articles were returned on initial database search. Of these, 56 were duplicate results. Six hundred and fifty eight articles were excluded based on title and abstract screening for relevance, and 135 full text articles were assessed for eligibility based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria outlined in Table 1. Of these, 129 articles were excluded for the following reasons; study focus on critical limb ischaemia (symptom duration more than two weeks) (six), no full text available (five), insufficient data on outcomes of interest (25), review articles (five), upper limb ischaemia only (two), case reports (84), included patients with any history of malignancy ever (two). Ultimately, six articles were included for analysis. Risk of bias and quality assessment was carried out using the NIH/NHLBI Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross Sectional Studies, and rated as “Good”, “Fair” or “Poor”. Three studies were rated as “Good”, while three were rated as “Fair”.

      Results of individual studies

      Patient demographics and study characteristics

      Six studies which included 4 689 patients, 284 with cancer, were used for data extraction. Three studies compared outcomes between cancer and non-cancer patients,
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      ,
      • Bennett Kyla M.
      • Scarborough J.E.
      • Shortell C.K.
      • Cox M.W.
      Outcomes of surgical revascularization for lower extremity arterial thromboembolism in patients with advanced malignancy.
      ,
      • Silverberg D.
      • Yalon T.
      • Reinitz E.R.
      • Yakubovitch D.
      • Segev T.
      • Halak M.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: aggressive treatment is justified.
      while three included only cancer patients.
      • Tsang J.S.
      • Naughton P.A.
      • O'Donnell J.
      • Wang T.T.
      • Moneley D.S.
      • Kelly C.J.
      • et al.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: should we surgically intervene?.
      ,
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      ,
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      Study characteristics and patient demographics are given in Table 3. All surgical interventions were aimed at revascularisation and limb salvage except for one patient included in the study by Mouhayar et al.
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      who underwent primary amputation.
      Table 3Patient demographics and study characteristics.
      CharacteristicsCountryStudy designNo. of patientsCase vs. non-caseCase definitionGenderAge mean or median (range)Mean/median follow upUpper vs. lower limb
      Javid et al.
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      UKProspective20Cancer 20Active malignancyM 7, F 13Median 63 (35–86)Median 8 weeksUpper 1, Lower 19
      Mouhayar et al.
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      USARetrospective74Cancer 74Active malignancyM 34, F 40Median 61 (25–80)Median 8 moUpper 4, Lower 70
      Morris-Stiff et al.
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      UKRetrospective126Cancer 14Native vessel occlusion only (occluded grafts were excluded), any active malignancyM 9, F 5Mean 71.5 (47–83)NRNR
      No cancer 112M 35, F 77Mean 72.9 (43–99)NR
      Bennet et al.
      • Bennett Kyla M.
      • Scarborough J.E.
      • Shortell C.K.
      • Cox M.W.
      Outcomes of surgical revascularization for lower extremity arterial thromboembolism in patients with advanced malignancy.
      USARetrospective4331Cancer 136Advanced malignancy only
      Advanced malignancy in this study was defined as follows: cancer that: (1) had spread to one site or more sites in addition to the primary site and (2) in whom the presence of multiple metastases indicates the cancer is widespread, fulminant, or near terminal.
      M 77, F 59Median 66 (57–76.5)NRLower 136
      No cancer 4 195M 2 259, F 1 936Median 69 (58–81)Lower 4 195
      Silverberg et al.
      • Silverberg D.
      • Yalon T.
      • Reinitz E.R.
      • Yakubovitch D.
      • Segev T.
      • Halak M.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: aggressive treatment is justified.
      IsraelRetrospective122Cancer 24Active malignancyM 15, F 9Mean 72 (NR)Mean 9.8 moLower 24
      No cancer 98M 52, F 46Mean 74 (NR)Mean 13.4 moLower 98
      Tsang et al.
      • Tsang J.S.
      • Naughton P.A.
      • O'Donnell J.
      • Wang T.T.
      • Moneley D.S.
      • Kelly C.J.
      • et al.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: should we surgically intervene?.
      IrelandRetrospective16Cancer 16Patients with a history of cancer (13 active, 3 diagnosed >1 y previously and not undergoing active tx)M 10, F 6Mean 67 (NR)Median 62 moUpper 5, Lower 11
      Advanced malignancy in this study was defined as follows: cancer that: (1) had spread to one site or more sites in addition to the primary site and (2) in whom the presence of multiple metastases indicates the cancer is widespread, fulminant, or near terminal.
      Javid et al.
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      performed a prospective single centre study including 20 patients with active malignancy. The most common type of cancer was breast cancer (25%). Twelve patients (60%) had metastatic disease. Sixteen (80%) had some form of adjuvant therapy within one month prior to presentation. Four patients (20%) presented with venous thromboembolism either shortly before or after the arterial event. Four patients were managed palliatively, and four others were managed conservatively (with anticoagulation, glyceryl trinitrate patches, and analgesia). Chemical sympathectomy was performed in two cases. The remaining 12 patients underwent angiography; four of whom were managed conservatively and eight surgically; all were given anticoagulation. Five had thromboembolectomy and three underwent bypass procedures. Of the three patients who underwent bypass surgery, two failed within six weeks. The first who underwent an iliofemoral and femoropopliteal bypass had further thromboses and died within six weeks. The second had a femorofemoral crossover graft, had graft thrombosis two weeks’ post-operatively and required above knee amputation but died a week later. The third who underwent a femoropopliteal bypass died six months post-operatively. Five of the six thromboembolectomies failed, four within 24 hours and one at three weeks. The remaining patient had some initial improvement but died six weeks later. Three of these patients underwent repeat thromboembolectomy, two of which also failed. One subsequently had a below knee amputation and died five months later. The other patient was treated with streptokinase which failed, and she died three weeks later. Javid et al.
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      included only cancer patients in their study and reported a 10% amputation rate (two of 20) during follow up.
      Bennett et al.
      • Bennett Kyla M.
      • Scarborough J.E.
      • Shortell C.K.
      • Cox M.W.
      Outcomes of surgical revascularization for lower extremity arterial thromboembolism in patients with advanced malignancy.
      performed a retrospective study using a national database. This database included only patients who underwent an operation and therefore did not include patients who did not undergo surgery. Patients with underlying advanced malignancy presenting with ALI who underwent an operation were included. Patients were classified as having advanced malignancy if they met one or more of the following criteria: 1) evidence of disseminated cancer, 2) chemotherapy within 30 days preceding index operation, 3) radiotherapy within the 90 days preceding the index operation, 4) presence of a tumour of the central nervous system. Amputation data were not recorded as a separate outcome, but as aggregate morbidity which also included surgical site infection, venous thromboembolism, pneumonia, stroke, renal failure, cardiac arrest, myocardial infarction, major bleeding, and sepsis, among others. One hundred and thirty six patients were included; 88 of whom underwent thromboembolectomy, 26 underwent thromboendarterectomy, and 22 bypass grafting. Forty one of 136 cancer patients (30.2%) died within 30 days of presentation in the study. However, despite the study including only patients with advanced malignancy, they did not have the highest 30 day mortality rate. Bennett et al.
      • Bennett Kyla M.
      • Scarborough J.E.
      • Shortell C.K.
      • Cox M.W.
      Outcomes of surgical revascularization for lower extremity arterial thromboembolism in patients with advanced malignancy.
      also reported 30 day mortality data for patients based on type of surgical intervention; 27 of the 88 patients who underwent thromboembolectomy died within 30 days, six of the 26 patients who underwent thromboendarterectomy died in this time period and a further eight patients of the 22 who underwent bypass operations also died within 30 days.
      Silverberg et al.
      • Silverberg D.
      • Yalon T.
      • Reinitz E.R.
      • Yakubovitch D.
      • Segev T.
      • Halak M.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: aggressive treatment is justified.
      performed a retrospective study including 24 patients with active malignancy, all of whom had Rutherford IIa or IIb acute limb ischaemia. Cancer stage was reported as the following; six patients had stage I disease, one had stage II, six had stage III, nine had stage IV, and in two patients the stage was unknown. Nineteen patients underwent active revascularisation efforts (including nine patients who underwent arterial thrombolysis and a total of 15 patients who had a thromboembolectomy, of whom five were after failed thrombolysis). Five patients were suffering from advanced metastatic disease; therefore, they were not subjected to intervention given their terminal prognosis. Silverberg et al.
      • Silverberg D.
      • Yalon T.
      • Reinitz E.R.
      • Yakubovitch D.
      • Segev T.
      • Halak M.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: aggressive treatment is justified.
      reported the lowest rate of amputation at 4.2% with just one amputation of 24 patients who presented with ALI. Five of 24 cancer patients (20.8%) died within 30 days.
      Tsang et al.
      • Tsang J.S.
      • Naughton P.A.
      • O'Donnell J.
      • Wang T.T.
      • Moneley D.S.
      • Kelly C.J.
      • et al.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: should we surgically intervene?.
      carried out a retrospective study looking at 16 patients with ALI and active malignancy. The patients had the following types of cancer: five urogenital tract, five lung/mediastinal, four gastrointestinal, one laryngeal, one breast. All 16 patients underwent operative management with thromboembolectomy, two of which subsequently required a bypass procedure. Tsang et al.
      • Tsang J.S.
      • Naughton P.A.
      • O'Donnell J.
      • Wang T.T.
      • Moneley D.S.
      • Kelly C.J.
      • et al.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: should we surgically intervene?.
      reported an overall amputation rate of 37.5% in their patients (six of 16) and reported the lowest 30 day mortality with just one death of 16 cancer patients (6.3%) presenting with ALI.
      Mouhayar et al.
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      performed a retrospective study including 74 patients. The Rutherford classification for ALI was recorded for each patient as follows; Rutherford I = 13, Rutherford IIa = 30, Rutherford IIb = 29, Rutherford III = 2. Twenty one patients underwent thrombolysis; seven of whom subsequently required surgery. A total of 36 patients underwent surgical intervention; 23 thromboembolectomy, seven bypass, six combination. Five patients who underwent surgical intervention failed revascularisation, and a further two patients underwent thrombolysis which failed and all required amputation. The amputation rate was recorded as 11% during follow up (eight of 74 patients). One patient was included who underwent primary amputation for late presentation with profound ischaemia. All other patients who suffered limb loss, as described above, had failed previous revascularisation attempts. Mouhayar et al.
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      found a 30 day mortality rate of 20%, with 15 of 74 patients dying during this time.
      Morris-Stiff et al.
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      undertook a retrospective study based on operative registries and therefore did not include patients managed non-operatively. There were 14 patients with underlying malignancy who presented with ALI. All 14 patients underwent thromboembolectomy, one also had a bypass procedure. Underlying malignancies were as follows: bronchial adenocarcinoma (four), transitional cell carcinoma bladder (two), lymphoma (two), oesophageal carcinoma (two), bronchial squamous cell carcinoma (one), colonic adenocarcinoma (one), pancreatic carcinoma (one), gastric adenocarcinoma (one), vulval squamous cell carcinoma (one), chronic lymphatic leukaemia (one). Morris-Stiff et al.
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      identified an amputation rate of 29% during the follow up period (4/14) and 50% 30 day mortality (7/14) in their cancer cohort.

      Interventions and outcomes

      Table 4 provides detail on the various interventions carried out for the treatment of ALI in each study, as well as baseline performance scores, level of ischaemia at presentation, and individual outcome data.
      Table 4Interventions and outcomes.
      CharacteristicsNo. of patientsCase vs. non-caseRutherford classificationPerformance statusInterventionThrombolysisAmputationDeath
      Javid et al.
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      20Cancer 20NRNRPalliation 4, conservative 4, endovascular 12;

      8 also had surgery (5 thromboembolectomy, 3 bypass)
      10% at 30 d (2/20), Unchanged at 1 y50% at 3 mo,

      83% at 1 y
      Mouhayar et al.
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      74Cancer 74R1 13, R2a 30, R2b 29, R3 2NREndovascular 21 (of which 7 then had surgery), 36 surgery
      Surgery excluding amputation.
      ; thromboembolectomy 23, bypass 7, combination 6
      21; of which 7 required surgery11% at 30 d (8/74), unchanged at 1 y20% at 30 d,

      50% at 1 y
      Morris-Stiff et al.
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      126Cancer 14NRASA class (%) 2:3:4 - 43:36:21Surgical patients only;

      13 thromboembolectomy, 1 bypass
      Total throughout follow up 29% (4/14)50% at 30 d,

      100% at 60 d
      No cancer 112ASA class (%) 2:3:4 - 41:52:9Surgical patients only;

      102 thromboembolectomy, 10 bypass
      Total throughout follow up 17% (19/112)30% at 30 d,

      35% at 60 d
      Bennet et al.
      • Bennett Kyla M.
      • Scarborough J.E.
      • Shortell C.K.
      • Cox M.W.
      Outcomes of surgical revascularization for lower extremity arterial thromboembolism in patients with advanced malignancy.
      4331Cancer 136NRASA class 4 or >60 (44.1%)88 thromboembolectomy, 26 thromboendarterectomy,

      22 bypass
      NR30.2% at 30 d
      No cancer 4195ASA class 4 or >1216 (29.0%)1931 thromboembolectomy, 822 thromboendarterectomy,

      1442 bypass
      NR6.9% at 30 d
      Silverberg et al.
      • Silverberg D.
      • Yalon T.
      • Reinitz E.R.
      • Yakubovitch D.
      • Segev T.
      • Halak M.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: aggressive treatment is justified.
      122Cancer 24All patients Class 2a or 2bNR5 conservative, 15 thromboembolectomy27.6%Total throughout follow up 4.2% (1/24)20.8% at 30 d,

      37.5% overall
      No cancer 9871 thromboembolectomy37.5%Total throughout follow up 7.1% (7/98)16.3% at 30 d,

      16.3% overall
      Tsang et al.
      • Tsang J.S.
      • Naughton P.A.
      • O'Donnell J.
      • Wang T.T.
      • Moneley D.S.
      • Kelly C.J.
      • et al.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: should we surgically intervene?.
      16Cancer 16NRNR16 thromboembolectomy; of which 2 had a bypassTotal throughout follow up, 37.5% (6/16)6.3% at 30 d,

      12.5% overall
      Surgery excluding amputation.

      Pooled outcomes

      Amputation

      Five of six studies included amputation data, while the other study
      • Bennett Kyla M.
      • Scarborough J.E.
      • Shortell C.K.
      • Cox M.W.
      Outcomes of surgical revascularization for lower extremity arterial thromboembolism in patients with advanced malignancy.
      only included amputation as part of aggregate morbidity data along with surgical site infection, wound dehiscence, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, mechanical ventilation, stroke, major bleeding, sepsis, urinary tract infection, nerve injury, along with some others.
      For all studies, amputation included either above or below knee amputation. No patient required an upper limb amputation.
      Rates varied widely for amputation among patients with active malignancy. Across five studies, the weighted average rate of amputation throughout the various follow up periods was 15% (95% CI 5.9 – 26.9).
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      • Tsang J.S.
      • Naughton P.A.
      • O'Donnell J.
      • Wang T.T.
      • Moneley D.S.
      • Kelly C.J.
      • et al.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: should we surgically intervene?.
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      ,
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      ,
      • Silverberg D.
      • Yalon T.
      • Reinitz E.R.
      • Yakubovitch D.
      • Segev T.
      • Halak M.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: aggressive treatment is justified.
      I2 was found to be 60%, which demonstrates significant interstudy heterogeneity. Fig. 2 includes a forest plot for overall amputation.
      Figure thumbnail gr2
      Figure 2Forest plot demonstrating amputation proportions in cancer cohort. ∗The paper by Bennett et al.
      • Bennett Kyla M.
      • Scarborough J.E.
      • Shortell C.K.
      • Cox M.W.
      Outcomes of surgical revascularization for lower extremity arterial thromboembolism in patients with advanced malignancy.
      was not included in the forest plot because it did not report on amputation outcomes.

      Mortality

      Recording of mortality data varied, with 30 day mortality being the most commonly reported among studies. Javid et al.
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      recorded overall mortality without specific 30 day mortality data. Of the 264 patients with active malignancy across five studies that included data on 30 day mortality, rates varied widely, with weighted average of 24% (95% CI 14.7 – 34.6).
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      ,
      • Tsang J.S.
      • Naughton P.A.
      • O'Donnell J.
      • Wang T.T.
      • Moneley D.S.
      • Kelly C.J.
      • et al.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: should we surgically intervene?.
      ,
      • Bennett Kyla M.
      • Scarborough J.E.
      • Shortell C.K.
      • Cox M.W.
      Outcomes of surgical revascularization for lower extremity arterial thromboembolism in patients with advanced malignancy.
      ,
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      ,
      • Silverberg D.
      • Yalon T.
      • Reinitz E.R.
      • Yakubovitch D.
      • Segev T.
      • Halak M.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: aggressive treatment is justified.
      I2 was 60%, which demonstrates significant interstudy heterogeneity.
      Some studies recorded 60 day, three month, one year, and overall mortality, details of which can be found in Table 4.
      Fig. 3 shows a forest plot for 30 day mortality rates for each study among cancer patients.
      Figure thumbnail gr3
      Figure 3Forest plot demonstrating 30 day mortality proportions in cancer cohort. ∗The paper by Javid et al.
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      was not included in the forest plot as they did not include 30 day mortality data.

      Discussion

      Summary of evidence

      Of the five studies that included data on amputation in cancer patients presenting with ALI, the weighted rate of amputation during follow up was 15% (95% CI 5.9 – 26.9).
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      • Tsang J.S.
      • Naughton P.A.
      • O'Donnell J.
      • Wang T.T.
      • Moneley D.S.
      • Kelly C.J.
      • et al.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: should we surgically intervene?.
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      ,
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      ,
      • Silverberg D.
      • Yalon T.
      • Reinitz E.R.
      • Yakubovitch D.
      • Segev T.
      • Halak M.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: aggressive treatment is justified.
      Five studies included 30 day mortality rates. Of the 264 patients, rates for 30 day mortality varied widely, with a pooled rate of 24% (95% CI 14.7 – 34.6).
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      ,
      • Tsang J.S.
      • Naughton P.A.
      • O'Donnell J.
      • Wang T.T.
      • Moneley D.S.
      • Kelly C.J.
      • et al.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: should we surgically intervene?.
      ,
      • Bennett Kyla M.
      • Scarborough J.E.
      • Shortell C.K.
      • Cox M.W.
      Outcomes of surgical revascularization for lower extremity arterial thromboembolism in patients with advanced malignancy.
      ,
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      ,
      • Silverberg D.
      • Yalon T.
      • Reinitz E.R.
      • Yakubovitch D.
      • Segev T.
      • Halak M.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: aggressive treatment is justified.
      This indicates that over three quarters of the malignancy cohort will survive the 30 day post-presentation period. The evidence available suggests that there is an acceptable risk of amputation in patients with cancer. In spite of the known increased risk of thrombogenesis in patients with cancer, this does not appear, based on current evidence, to translate to higher rates of treatment failure in those presenting with ALI.
      The results regarding outcomes of interest are based on pooled evidence from uncontrolled case series (level 4 evidence).

      Limitations

      Bias within individual studies was evaluated using the NIH/NHLBI Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross Sectional Studies. While three of the studies were rated as “Good”, three were rated as “Fair” and the reasons for this are outlined below.
      Criteria for inclusion varied among studies. Some studies included patients with advanced malignancy only.
      • Bennett Kyla M.
      • Scarborough J.E.
      • Shortell C.K.
      • Cox M.W.
      Outcomes of surgical revascularization for lower extremity arterial thromboembolism in patients with advanced malignancy.
      Two studies pooled upper and lower limb ischaemia together in their outcome measures; however, ideally, these should be analysed separately, as there is evidence to suggest that aetiology, approach, and outcomes vary between these presentations.
      • Wong V.W.
      • Major M.R.
      • Higgins J.P.
      Nonoperative management of acute upper limb ischemia.
      Patients with upper limb ischaemia are less likely to require an amputation. Outcomes for different studies are heterogenous. A more nuanced approach is needed that considers baseline performance status. An important outcome predictor for limb salvage in acute limb ischaemia, in any patient, is Rutherford classification on presentation. Data were available regarding severity of ischaemia in only two of the six studies.
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      ,
      • Silverberg D.
      • Yalon T.
      • Reinitz E.R.
      • Yakubovitch D.
      • Segev T.
      • Halak M.
      Acute limb ischemia in cancer patients: aggressive treatment is justified.
      Furthermore, data regarding anticoagulation peri-operatively need to be recorded consistently, as this will ultimately impact on patency of revascularisation and limb salvage outcomes. Outcomes for the types of interventions in patients with cancer is important for future studies as this may highlight better or worse outcomes based on the method of revascularisation for this cohort of patients, which may be different from the general population.
      Study selection processes were different among groups. Two studies used operative registries to identify retrospectively patients with ALI and cancer.
      • Morris-Stiff G.
      • Lewis M.H.
      Surgical treatment of acute limb ischaemia in the presence of malignancy.
      ,
      • Bennett Kyla M.
      • Scarborough J.E.
      • Shortell C.K.
      • Cox M.W.
      Outcomes of surgical revascularization for lower extremity arterial thromboembolism in patients with advanced malignancy.
      It is possible, given the inclusion of patients undergoing surgical intervention only, that substantial selection bias exists. Those with advanced disease or poor performance status may have been offered upfront palliation or amputation, which was found in some cases that included all cancer patients with ALI.
      • Javid M.
      • Magee T.R.
      • Galland R.B.
      Arterial thrombosis associated with malignant disease.
      ,
      • Mouhayar E.
      • Tayar J.
      • Fasulo M.
      • Aoun R.
      • Massey M.
      • Abi-Aad S.
      • et al.
      Outcome of acute limb ischemia in cancer patients.
      Further data on the patients not offered intervention would be interesting and it is also important to note the proportion of patients with underlying malignancy that are offered surgical revascularisation (including details about the type of intervention) vs. palliation and the different characteristics that determine this decision.

      Conclusion

      The data demonstrate that ALI outcomes for patients with cancer vary greatly across studies. Several studies have demonstrated acceptable short and medium term outcomes for patients with cancer undergoing revascularisation for acute limb ischaemia. Cancer, as a constellation of vastly differing malignancies of differing stages and undergoing a wide array of treatment modalities, should not be treated as a single entity. Future research in this area should seek to standardise inclusion criteria and case definitions in specific patient cohorts, to provide a more detailed picture of outcome measures for patients with cancer and to provide site and stage specific outcome data for the heterogenous group of malignant conditions. Evidence to date does not support upfront conservative management for patients with acute limb ischaemia and an underlying active malignancy.

      Conflict of interest

      None.

      Funding

      None.

      Appendix A. Supplementary data

      The following is the Supplementary data to this article:

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