Long-Term Evaluation of Vertebral Artery Injuries Following Cervical Spine Trauma Using Magnetic Resonance Angiography

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Abstract

Study Design.

A prospective study to determine the long-term outcome of traumatically induced vertebral artery injuries. Magnetic resonance angiography was performed at the time of cervical injury and at a follow-up office visit.

Objective.

To determine the long-term outcome in terms of arterial flow competency of traumatically induced vertebral artery injuries.

Summary of Background Data.

Vertebral artery injury associated with cervical spine trauma has been well documented; however its healing or nonhealing potential has not been elucidated.

Methods.

During the 7-month period from July 1993 to January 1994, all patients admitted to the authors' institution with cervical spine injuries underwent magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic resonance angiography of the cervical spine to determine the patency of their vertebral arteries. Magnetic resonance angiography was performed at the time of injury and at a follow-up office visit. Twelve of 61 patients were found to have a lack of signal flow within one of their vertebral vessels during this study period.

Results.

Eighty-three percent of the patients (five of six) who were available for follow-up observation in this study did not manifest flow reconstitution of their vertebral arteries after an average 25.8-month follow-up period.

Conclusions.

According to these data, most patients with vertebral artery injuries after nonpenetrating cervical spine trauma do not reconstitute flow in the injured vertebral arteries. This lack of flow must be considered if future surgery in this region of the cervical spine is contemplated.

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