Cerebrovascular dissections--a review part I: Spontaneous dissections

Neurosurgery. 2011 Jan;68(1):242-57; discussion 257. doi: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e3182012323.


Spontaneous cerebrovascular dissections are subintimal or subadventitial cervical carotid and vertebral artery wall injuries and are the cause of as many as 2% of all ischemic strokes. Spontaneous dissections are the leading cause of stroke in patients younger than 45 years of age, accounting for almost one fourth of strokes in this population. A history of some degree of trivial trauma is present in nearly one fourth of cases. Subsequent mortality or neurological morbidity is usually the result of distal ischemia produced by emboli released from the injury site, although local mass effect produced by arterial dilation or aneurysm formation also can occur. The gold standard for diagnosis remains digital subtraction angiography. Computed tomography angiography, magnetic resonance angiography, and ultrasonography are complementary means o evaluation, particularly for injury screening or treatment follow-up. The annual rate of stroke after injury is approximately 1% or less per year. The currently accepted method of therapy remains antithrombotic medication, either in the form of anticoagulation or antiplatelet agents; however, no class I medical evidence exists to guide therapy. Other options for treatment include thrombolysis and endovascular therapy, although the efficacy and indications for these methods remain unclear.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carotid Artery, Internal, Dissection*
  • Humans
  • Stroke*
  • Vertebral Artery Dissection*