Blunt carotid artery injury

Emerg Med (Fremantle). 2002 Dec;14(4):412-21. doi: 10.1046/j.1442-2026.2002.00348.x.


Blunt carotid artery injury is an uncommon injury with a potentially devastating outcome. Although treatment is often unhelpful for an established neurologic deficit, there is frequently a delay between the episode of trauma and the onset of neurology. This delay provides a window of opportunity where early detection and intervention may significantly improve outcome and prevent lifelong morbidity in a generally young trauma patient population. This paper will review the literature regarding incidence, outcome, treatment options and optimal methods of diagnosis for this lesion. The following synopsis of a case seen at Royal Perth Hospital Emergency Department illustrates several of the classical features of blunt carotid injury, including delayed presentation and pattern of associated injuries. The patient, a 19-year-old female, presented following a single vehicle motor crash. On arrival she had a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) of 14 with no focal neurologic deficit. Multiple injuries were identified, including a large scalp laceration, a compound fracture of the mandible, pneumothorax, sternal fracture, subcapsular haematoma of the liver, and a knee laceration. Initial computed tomography (CT) scan of the head was normal. Twenty hours after the motor vehicle accident the patient's conscious state deteriorated to GCS 9. Repeat CT head demonstrated changes consistent with a left middle cerebral artery infarct. Cerebral angiography revealed traumatic dissection of the left internal carotid artery with complete occlusion of the lumen just distal to its origin. After 13 days in the intensive care unit and 2.5 months in the rehabilitation unit, she was discharged with a persistent severe receptive and expressive aphasia, as well as a dense right hemiparesis. She is now living at home with community supports.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Carotid Artery Injuries* / complications
  • Carotid Artery Injuries* / diagnosis
  • Carotid Artery Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Carotid Artery Injuries* / therapy
  • Cerebral Angiography
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / complications
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Heparin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Multiple Trauma
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating* / complications
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating* / diagnosis
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating* / epidemiology
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating* / therapy


  • Anticoagulants
  • Heparin