Purpose of review: Vertebrobasilar stenosis accounts for 20% of posterior circulation strokes and is associated with high risk of early stroke recurrence. We review data from randomized controlled trials examining whether stenting may reduce this risk, including the recently published Vertebral Artery Ischaemia Stenting Trial (VIST).
Recent findings: VIST and VAST (Vertebral Artery Stenting Trial), having recruited both intracranial and extracranial vertebral stenosis and showed a low rate of perioperative stroke for extracranial (0 and 2%, respectively), but a higher rate for intracranial stenosis (15 and 22%, respectively). In VIST, the primary endpoint of stroke occurred in five patients in the stent group vs. 12 in the medical group (hazard ratio 0.40; 95% confidence interval 0.14-1.13, P = 0.08), although when days from last symptoms were adjusted for, the hazard ratio was 0.34 (95% confidence interval 0.12-0.98; P = 0.046). SAMMPRIS (Stenting and Aggressive Medical Management for the Prevention of Recurrent Stroke in Intracranial Stenosis) recruited only intracranial vertebral stenosis and showed a better outcome with intensive medical therapy than stenting.
Summary: Stenting of extracranial stenosis can be performed with a low operative risk. VIST suggests it may reduce longer term stroke risk, but this needs confirming in larger trials. For intracranial stenosis, due to a higher operative risk, current evidence favours medical treatment. SAMMPRIS have emphasized the need for intensive medical therapy whether or not stenting is performed.