The management of carotid artery rupture

  • Tao Upile
  • Stefanos Triaridis
  • Paul Kirkland
  • Daniel Archer
  • Adam Searle
  • Colm Irving
  • Peter  Rhys Evans
Head and Neck Oncology


Carotid artery rupture is fortunately an uncommon complication of head and neck cancer treatment. Eleven episodes of carotid artery rupture following irradiation and major head and neck resection were identified over a 6-year period. We review our experience and discuss the predisposing factors that can cause this complication, important aspects of management and outcome. During this 6-year period, 11 episodes of carotid artery rupture were treated in our unit. All patients had received prior irradiation (more than 60 Gy) and undergone a major surgical resection or resections. The average age was 59 years; all patients had a salivary fistula, local infection and a manifest ‘herald bleed’ just before their major carotid artery rupture. These patients were resuscitated, taken to theatre and the neck explored, with control of the vessel and debridement of necrotic tissue. Soft tissue coverage was in the form of a flap. Many of the factors predisposing to carotid artery rupture can be ameliorated or treated early in order to avoid this complication. Early and aggressive nutritional support together with correction of haematological abnormalities promote wound healing and prevent tissue breakdown. The detection and treatment of infection also reduces fistula formation and wound compromise. We present our protocol for the early, aggressive management of these patients with carotid artery rupture.


Carotid artery Rupture Head and neck cancer Haemorrhage Emergency treatment 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tao Upile
    • 1
  • Stefanos Triaridis
    • 1
  • Paul Kirkland
    • 1
  • Daniel Archer
    • 1
  • Adam Searle
    • 2
  • Colm Irving
    • 3
  • Peter  Rhys Evans
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Head and Neck Surgery, Head and Neck UnitThe Royal Marsden HospitalLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of Plastic Surgery, Head and Neck UnitThe Royal Marsden HospitalLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of Anaesthetics and ICU, Head & Neck UnitThe Royal Marsden HospitalLondonUK

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