The pattern and prevalence of vertebral artery injury in patients with cervical spine fractures
AbstractAim. It is not uncommon for vertebral artery injury to occur when there are fractures through the transverse foraminae of the first to the sixth vertebral bodies. Other important risk factors for vertebral artery injury include facet joint dislocations and fractures of the first to the third cervical
vertebral bodies. The aim of this study was to determine the pattern and prevalence of vertebral artery injury on CT angiography (CTA) in patients
with cervical spine fractures.
Method. A retrospective review of patients who had undergone CTA of the vertebral arteries was undertaken. Reports were reviewed to determine
which patients met the inclusion criteria of having had both cervical spine fractures and CTA of the vertebral arteries. Images of patients who met
the inclusion criteria were analysed by a radiologist.
Results. The prevalence of vertebral artery injury was 33%. Four out of the 11 patients who had vertebral artery injury had post-traumatic spasm
of the artery, with associated thrombosis or occlusion of the vessel. In terms of blunt carotid vertebral injury (BCVI) grading, most of the patients
sustained grade IV injuries. Four patients who had vertebral artery injury had fractures of the upper cervical vertebrae, i.e. C1 - C3. Fifteen transverse process fractures were associated with vertebral artery injury. No vertebral artery injury was detected in patients who had facet joint subluxations.
Conclusion. Patients with transverse process fractures of the cervical spine and upper cervical vertebral body fractures should undergo CTA to
exclude vertebral artery injury.
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