Blunt Trauma to the High Cervical Carotid Artery

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Closed injuries to the neck, occasionally associated with mandibular fractures, can result in trauma to the internal carotid artery at the high cervical level opposite the uppermost cervical vertebrae. Such arterial injuries range from spasm to intimal tear with thrombus formation, medial tear, and aneurysm formation. These types of lesions may overlap. Ten patients are presented, five with traumatic carotid occlusions and five with traumatic aneurysms. The clinical diagnosis of traumatic cervical carotid occlusion may be difficult because of the absence of physical trauma to the neck. The diagnosis of aneurysm poses fewer problems. Oculopneumoplethysmography, computerized tomographic head scanning, and carotid arteriography with cross compression are the most useful diagnostic techniques. Thrombectomy should be carried out early, particularly in the presence of fluctuating neurological signs. Aneurysms that cannot be approached directly may necessitate carotid ligation.

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