Background: The recognition that early diagnosis and intervention, prior to ischemic neurologic injury, has the potential to improve outcome following blunt cerebrovascular injuries (BCVI), led to a policy of aggressive screening for these injuries. The resultant epidemic of BCVI has created a dilemma, as widespread screening is impractical. We sought to identify independent predictors of BCVI, to focus resources.
Methods: Cerebral arteriography was performed based on signs or symptoms of BCVI, or in asymptomatic patients with high-risk mechanisms (hyperextension, hyperflexion, direct blow) or injury patterns. Logistic regression analysis identified independent predictors.
Results: A total of 249 patients underwent arteriography; 85 (34%) had injuries. Independent predictors of carotid arterial injury were Glasgow coma score < or =6, petrous bone fracture, diffuse axonal brain injury, and LeFort II or III fracture. Having one of these factors in the setting of a high-risk mechanism was associated with 41% risk of injury. Of patients with cervical spine fracture, 39% had vertebral arterial injury.
Conclusions: Patients sustaining high-risk injury mechanisms or patterns should be screened for BCVI. In the face of limited resources, screening efforts should be focused on those with high-risk predictors.