Subarachnoid hemorrhage from vertebrobasilar dissecting aneurysm treated with staged bilateral vertebral artery occlusion: the importance of early follow-up angiography: technical case report

Neurosurgery. 1999 Nov;45(5):1258-62; discussion 1262-3. doi: 10.1097/00006123-199911000-00056.


Objective and importance: Vertebrobasilar dissecting aneurysms are an uncommon but increasingly recognized cause of subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). We describe a patient with SAH caused by a dissecting aneurysm involving both vertebral arteries as well as the basilar trunk. The patient was treated successfully with proximal occlusion of the vertebral arteries using endovascular balloon occlusion in two stages. The importance of early follow-up angiography to document progression or resolution of untreated dissections is emphasized. This approach is suggested as definitive treatment for vertebrobasilar dissection in appropriate circumstances.

Clinical presentation: A 41-year-old man presented with SAH from spontaneous vertebrobasilar dissection. Angiography revealed aneurysmal dilation of the right vertebral artery and basilar trunk and occlusion of the left vertebral artery.

Intervention: The dissecting aneurysm was treated with balloon occlusion of the right vertebral artery. Repeat angiography 2 weeks later demonstrated resolution of the left vertebral occlusion, with restoration of antegrade flow in the basilar trunk and increased filling of the right vertebral and basilar dissecting aneurysms. Balloon occlusion of the left vertebral artery led to aneurysm thrombosis and excellent clinical outcome.

Conclusion: Bilateral vertebrobasilar dissecting aneurysms are an uncommon cause of SAH. If unilateral proximal vertebral artery occlusion is chosen as the initial treatment, it is essential to document the status of the contralateral vessel using follow-up angiography. Staged bilateral vertebral artery occlusion should be considered in the event of recurrent or progressive aneurysm enlargement. Endovascular balloon occlusion has advantages over proximal clipping of the parent vessel: cranial nerve manipulation is avoided, test occlusion in the awake patient can be performed at the site of permanent occlusion, and therapeutic levels of anticoagulation can be maintained throughout and after the procedure, thus diminishing the likelihood of thromboembolic complications.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aortic Dissection / diagnostic imaging
  • Aortic Dissection / therapy*
  • Cerebral Angiography*
  • Embolization, Therapeutic*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / diagnostic imaging
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / therapy*
  • Male
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / diagnostic imaging
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / therapy*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vertebrobasilar Insufficiency / diagnostic imaging
  • Vertebrobasilar Insufficiency / therapy*