Clinically silent circulating microemboli in 20 patients with carotid or vertebral artery dissection

Cerebrovasc Dis. 2001;12(3):181-5. doi: 10.1159/000047701.


Background and purpose: Carotid and vertebral artery dissections are frequently complicated by cerebral embolism. Detection of clinically silent circulating microemboli by transcranial Doppler sonography (TCD) is now widely investigated in patients with carotid artery disease in the hope to identify patients at increased risk for stroke.

Methods: In 20 patients with carotid (n = 17) or vertebral (n = 2) artery dissection, or both (n = 1), we performed a 1-hour microembolus detection downstream to the dissection in the middle or in the posterior cerebral artery, respectively.

Results: Five patients with a carotid artery stenosis of > or = 90% or with carotid artery occlusion showed microembolic signals at a rate of up to 15 events/h. In all these patients, the onset of the dissection was within the last 58 days. Patients with lower degrees of stenosis or onset of symptoms beyond 58 days did not show microembolic signals at all. Three patients who had presented with recurrent ischaemic events prior to TCD monitoring unexceptionally had microembolic signals.

Conclusion: Microembolic signals occur in patients with high-grade stenosis or occlusion due to acute cervical artery dissection. Patients with microemboli seem to be at increased macroembolic risk, i.e. stroke recurrence, and may require close-meshed clinical follow-up and possibly stronger antithrombotic treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aneurysm, Dissecting / complications*
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / complications
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / complications*
  • Carotid Stenosis / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / complications*
  • Intracranial Embolism / diagnostic imaging
  • Intracranial Embolism / etiology*
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / complications
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck / blood supply
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial
  • Vertebral Artery*