Posterior cerebral artery territory infarcts: clinical features, infarct topography, causes and outcome. Multicenter results and a review of the literature

Cerebrovasc Dis. 2000 May-Jun;10(3):170-82. doi: 10.1159/000016053.


Only a few large series of posterior cerebral artery (PCA) stroke exist, and clinical features and causes have not been studied as extensively as in other vascular territories. The PCA syndrome includes more clinical signs than the well-known visual field deficits. Concomitant findings are frequently sensory, slight motor and neuropsychological deficits. Unilateral headaches are the common presenting symptom making complicated migraine an important differential diagnosis. Combined deep and superficial PCA territory infarcts involving the lateral thalamus are more frequent than commonly assumed and are mostly associated with sensory and reversible slight motor deficits. Occlusion of the precommunal PCA segment with associated paramedian midbrain infarction causes severe motor deficits, oculomotor signs, and decreased consciousness and has a poorer outcome than other PCA territory infarcts. Embolism from a cardiac or undetermined source is the leading mechanism accounting for up to half of the cases, whereas arterial embolism from significant proximal vertebrobasilar disease is less frequent. Local atherothrombotic stenosis or occlusion of the PCA is uncommon. In spite of thorough diagnostic evaluation, the etiology of PCA territory infarction cannot be determined in at least one quarter of patients. Among the rare causes of PCA territory infarction carotid artery disease is important while the significance of migraine remains controversial.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Infarction / diagnosis*
  • Cerebral Infarction / etiology
  • Cerebral Infarction / physiopathology*
  • Cerebral Infarction / therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Headache
  • Heart Diseases / complications
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Embolism / complications
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Posterior Cerebral Artery*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Visual Fields