Distribution Patterns of the Vulnerable Vessels Around Cervical Nerve Roots: A Computed Tomography-Based Study

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Abstract

Objective

The aim of the study was to evaluate the prevalence of vulnerable vessels around the target of cervical transforaminal epidural steroid injection at the C3-C7 cervical nerve root levels in a clinical setting.

Design

Retrospective, cross-sectional study was conducted.

Participants

Patients complaining of neck or arm pain with no previous surgical history and who had undergone both precontrast and contrast-enhanced neck computed tomography were included retrospectively.

Results

In 26 (21.0%) of 124 patients, none of the vulnerable vessels around the target of cervical transforaminal epidural steroid injection around both sides of the C3-C7 nerve roots were observed. Of 248 cervical root levels, the C3 level had 103 vessels (41.5%), the C4 level had 110 vessels (44.4%), the C5 level had 98 vessels (39.5%), the C6 level had 59 vessels (23.8%), and the C7 level had 34 vessels (13.7%) close to each target nerve root. In addition, variations of the vertebral artery at the C4-C7 level were observed in 11 (8.9%) of 124 patients.

Conclusions

To prevent unexpected critical complications involving injury to vulnerable vessels during cervical transforaminal epidural steroid injection, it is recommended to routinely evaluate the vulnerable vessels around the cervical nerve root with computed tomography or Doppler ultrasound before cervical transforaminal epidural steroid injection, especially for the upper cervical nerve root level.

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