Posterior Circulation Occlusions May Be Associated with Distal Emboli During Thrombectomy : Factors for Distal Embolization and a Review of the Literature

Clin Neuroradiol. 2019 Sep;29(3):425-433. doi: 10.1007/s00062-018-0679-z. Epub 2018 Mar 22.


Background: Distal embolization or movement of the thrombus to previously uninvolved vasculature are feared complications during stroke thrombectomy. We looked at associated factors in a consecutive series of patients who underwent thrombectomy with the same endovascular device.

Methods: We included all patients with acute ischemic stroke in the anterior or posterior circulation, who underwent thrombectomy with the same thrombectomy device for acute stroke from 2013 to 2016. Distal embolization was defined as any movement of the thrombus into a previously uninvolved portion of the cerebral vasculature or the presence of thrombotic material further downstream in the affected vessel, which occurred after the initial angiogram. We studied patient-related as well as technical factors to determine their association with distal emboli.

Results: In this study 167 consecutive acute stroke patients treated with the emboTrap® device (Cerenovus, Irvine, CA, USA) were included with a median National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) of 15 (range 2-30) and mean age of 67 years (SD 13.1 years). Of the patients in our cohort 20 (11.9%) experienced distal emboli, with 2.3% into a new territory and 9.6% into a territory distal to the primary occlusion. On univariate analysis, age, intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), posterior circulation occlusions, and general anesthesia were associated with distal emboli. On multivariate analysis, only posterior circulation occlusions (odds ratio OR 4.506 95% confidence interval CI 1.483-13.692, p = 0.008) were significantly associated with distal emboli. Distal embolization was not significantly associated with worse functional outcomes at 3 months, increased mortality or increased bleeding risk.

Conclusion: Posterior circulation occlusions were significantly associated with distal emboli during thrombectomy, possibly due to the lack of flow arrest during such procedures. New techniques and devices should be developed to protect against embolic complications during posterior circulation stroke thrombectomy.

Keywords: Complication; Emboli; Thrombectomy; stroke.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anesthesia, General / adverse effects
  • Brain Ischemia / surgery*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Female
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Embolism / diagnostic imaging
  • Intracranial Embolism / etiology*
  • Intraoperative Complications / diagnostic imaging
  • Intraoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stroke / surgery*
  • Thrombectomy / adverse effects*
  • Thrombectomy / instrumentation
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator / administration & dosage


  • Fibrinolytic Agents
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator