Short- and Long-Term Results of Operative Iliac Artery Release in Endurance Athletes

Martijn van Hooff*, Marieke M J M Hegge, Mart H M Bender, Maarten J A Loos, Alberto Brini, Hans H C M Savelberg, Marc R M Scheltinga, Goof Schep

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Endurance athletes may develop intermittent claudication due to sport-related flow-limitations of the iliac artery (FLIA) caused by arterial kinking. This study investigated short- and long-term efficacy of an operative release for iliac artery kinking.

METHODS: Between 1996 and 2015, all patients diagnosed and operated with FLIA due to iliac artery kinking without significant arterial stenosis (<15%) or excessive arterial length (vessel length to straight ratio <1.25) were included. Short-term follow up consisted of cycling tests including ankle-brachial index with flexed hip (ABIflexed) and echo-Doppler examinations (peak systolic velocity, PSV) before and 6-18 months after surgery. Additionally, short-term and long-term efficacy were evaluated using questionnaires.

RESULTS: A total of 142 endurance athletes (155 legs, 88.4% male, median age 26, (22-31; interquartile range)) were available for analysis. In the short-term, symptoms were reduced in 83.9% of the patients with an overall 80.3% satisfaction rate. Power during a maximal cycling test improved from 420 (384-465) to 440 (400-485) Watt (P<.05). Symptom free workload increased from 300 (235-352) to 400 (332-460) Watt (P<.001). Post-exercise ABIflexed increased from 0.53 (0.39-0.62) to 0.57 (0.47-0.64) (P<.05) and PSV with flexed hip decreased from 1.98 (1.58-2.51) to 1.60 (1.20-2.15) m/s (P<.001). Postoperative imaging revealed (minor) kinking in 37%, mostly a-symptomatic. Long-term results were evaluated after a median 15.2 (10.9-19.5) years. The athletes cycled an additional 125.500 (72.00-227.500) kilometres. This is approximately equal to the 131.000 (98.250-220.000) cycled kilometres before the diagnosis of FLIA. On the long-term, a total of 63.9% reported persistent reduction of complaints with an overall 59.1% satisfaction rate. Eight patients needed a reintervention of which six were considered failures and two were considered as newly developed FLIA.

CONCLUSION: An operative iliac artery release for sport-related functional kinking in the absence of stenosis of excessive vessel length is short-term and long-term effective in most athletes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1993-2001.e3
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery
Issue number6
Early online date24 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Claudication
  • Cyclists
  • Endofibrosis
  • Endurance athletes
  • Iliac kinking
  • Long-term results

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