Incidence of traumatic carotid and vertebral artery dissections: results of cervical vessel computed tomography angiogram as a mandatory scan component in severely injured patients

Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2018 Jan 24;14:173-178. doi: 10.2147/TCRM.S148176. eCollection 2018.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to evaluate the true incidence of cervical artery dissections (CeADs) in trauma patients with an Injury Severity Score (ISS) of ≥16, since head-and-neck computed tomography angiogram (CTA) is not a compulsory component of whole-body trauma computed tomography (CT) protocols.

Patients and methods: A total of 230 consecutive trauma patients with an ISS of ≥16 admitted to our Level I trauma center during a 24-month period were prospectively included. Standardized whole-body CT in a 256-detector row scanner included a head-and-neck CTA. Incidence, mortality, patient and trauma characteristics, and concomitant injuries were recorded and analyzed retrospectively in patients with carotid artery dissection (CAD) and vertebral artery dissection (VAD).

Results: Of the 230 patients included, 6.5% had a CeAD, 5.2% had a CAD, and 1.7% had a VAD. One patient had both CAD and VAD. For both, CAD and VAD, mortality is 25%. One death was caused by fatal cerebral ischemia due to high-grade CAD. A total of 41.6% of the patients with traumatic CAD and 25% of the patients with VAD had neurological sequelae.

Conclusion: Mandatory head-and-neck CTA yields higher CeAD incidence than reported before. We highly recommend the compulsory inclusion of a head-and-neck CTA to whole-body CT routines for severely injured patients.

Keywords: blunt trauma; carotid artery; computed tomography angiogram; dissection; polytrauma; vertebral artery.