Craniocervical artery dissection: MR imaging and MR angiographic findings

Eur Radiol. 1999;9(7):1385-91. doi: 10.1007/s003300050853.


Dissection of the carotid and vertebral arteries is a not so uncommon cause of stroke and has to be considered as a differential diagnosis especially in younger patients. Therapeutic and prognostic implications are different from those in extracranial atherosclerotic disease. Dissection results from hemorrhage into the vessel wall usually between the layers of the media. Digital subtraction angiography (DSA) depicts the resulting luminal compromise that may reveal some typical, but not specific, findings. The same is true for non-invasive angiographic techniques such as time-of-flight magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) and computed tomography angiography (CTA), which have shown accurate results compared with DSA. The main advantage of these techniques is the direct visualization of the vessel wall confirming the intramural hematoma. This is achieved best with MR imaging due to the high signal of blood degradation products on T1- and T2-weighted images. Therefore, MRI in combination with MRA is presently the method of choice for initial diagnosis and follow-up of craniocervical artery dissection (CCAD). In some questionable cases, CTA is a non-invasive alternative that is independent of flow phenomena.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aneurysm, Dissecting / diagnosis*
  • Aneurysm, Dissecting / etiology
  • Angiography, Digital Subtraction
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / etiology
  • Carotid Artery, Internal / pathology
  • Child
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stroke / diagnosis
  • Stroke / etiology
  • Vertebral Artery* / pathology