Association between cervical spine and skull-base fractures and blunt cerebrovascular injury

Eur Radiol. 2016 Feb;26(2):524-31. doi: 10.1007/s00330-015-3858-1. Epub 2015 Jun 26.


Introduction: Blunt cerebrovascular injuries (BCVI) are associated with high morbidity and mortality and can lead to neurological deficits. The established criteria for patients undergoing CT angiography (CTA) for BCVI are broad, and can expose patients to radiation unnecessarily. This study aimed to examine the prevalence of BCVI in patients on CTA and determine presentations associated with the highest rates of BCVI.

Materials and methods: With IRB approval, patients were selected for CTA screening for BCVI according to a predefined set of criteria at our hospital between 2007 and 2010. Patients were identified from our institution's trauma database. CTAs were retrospectively reviewed for BCVI including vasospasm and dissection. Electronic medical records were reviewed for clinical presentation and hospital course.

Results: Of 432 patients, vasospasm (n = 10) and/or dissection (n = 36) were found in 46 patients (10.6%). BCVI was associated with cervical spine and/or skull-base fracture in 40/46 patients (87%, P < 0.0001). Significant correlations were seen between dissection and fracture in 31/36 patients (86.2%, p < 0.0001) and between BCVI and both neurological deficits and fractures (27/44, P < 0.0001).

Conclusion: BCVI was significantly associated with cervical and/or skullbase fractures and neurological deficits with coexistent fractures. Patients with these injuries should be prioritized for rapid CTA evaluation for BCVI.

Key points: • CTA screening is important to identify patients with underlying BCVI • Cervical spine and/or skullbase fractures were significantly associated with BCVI • BCVI may occur in up to 11% of patients with blunt trauma injuries.

Keywords: Blunt trauma; Cerebrovascular trauma; Computed tomography angiogram; Dissection; Vascular system injuries.

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / complications*
  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skull / diagnostic imaging
  • Skull Fractures / complications*
  • Skull Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Fractures / complications*
  • Spinal Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / complications*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnostic imaging