Clinical and radiological outcomes following traumatic Grade 1 and 2 vertebral artery injuries: A 10-year retrospective analysis from a Level 1 trauma center: Clinical article

William W. Scott, Steven Sharp, Stephen A. Figueroa, Christopher J. Madden, Kim L. Rickert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Object. Screening of blunt vertebral artery (VA) injuries has increased since research has shown that they occur at a higher incidence than originally reported. Grade 1 and 2 injuries are the most common form of blunt VA injury. Proper screening, management, and follow-up of these injuries remain controversial. In this report, imaging, progression, treatment, and outcomes of Grade 1 and 2 blunt VA injuries were analyzed to better define their natural history and to establish a rational management plan based upon their risk of progression and cerebral infarct. Methods. A retrospective review of all blunt traumatic carotid artery and VA injuries from December 2003 to April 2013 was performed. For the purposes of this report, focus was given to Grade 1 and 2 VA injuries. Grade 1 injuries were defined as a vessel lumen stenosis of less than 25%, and Grade 2 injuries were defined as vessel lumen stenosis between 25% and 50%. Demographic information, radiological imaging, number of images performed per individual, length of radiological follow-up, radiological outcome at the end of follow-up, treatment provided, and documentation of stroke or transient ischemic attack were recorded. Results. One hundred eighty-seven Grade 1 and 2 VA injuries in 143 patients were identified. Of these 143 patients, 120 with 152 Grade 1 or 2 blunt VA injuries were available for follow-up. The mean duration of follow-up was 40 days. Repeat imaging showed that 148 (97.4%) Grade 1 or 2 blunt VA injuries were stable, improved, or resolved on final follow-up imaging. Seventy-nine patients (66%) were treated with aspirin, whereas 35 patients (29%) received no treatment. The remaining patients were treated with other antiplatelet agents or anticoagulant medication. Neuroimaging demonstrated 2 cases (1.7%) with posterior circulation infarcts that were believed to be related to their blunt VA injuries, both of which occurred during the initial hospitalization and within the first 4 days after injury. Conclusions. Although follow-up imaging showed progressive worsening without radiological improvement in only a small number of patients with low-grade blunt VA injuries, these findings did not correlate with adverse clinical outcome. The posttraumatic cerebral infarction rate of 1.7% may be overestimated, and the use of acetylsalicylic acid or other antiplatelet or anticoagulant medication did not correlate with radiological changes or rate of cerebral infarction. While these data suggest the possibility that these low-grade VA injuries may not require treatment or follow-up, future prospective studies are needed to make conclusive changes related to management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-456
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Blunt cervical vascular injury
  • Cerebral infarction
  • Vascular disorders
  • Vertebral artery injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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