Evaluation and management of blunt cerebrovascular injury: A practice management guideline from the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2020 Jun;88(6):875-887. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000002668.


Background: Blunt cerebrovascular injuries (BCVIs) are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. This guideline evaluates several aspects of BCVI diagnosis and management including the role of screening protocols, criteria for screening cervical spine injuries, and the use of antithrombotic therapy (ATT) and endovascular stents.

Methods: Using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) methodology, a taskforce of the Practice Management Guidelines Committee of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of currently available evidence. Four population, intervention, comparison, and outcome questions were developed to address diagnostic and therapeutic issues relevant to BCVI.

Results: A total of 98 articles were identified. Of these, 23 articles were selected to construct the guidelines. In these studies, the detection of BCVI increased with the use of a screening protocol versus no screening protocol (odds ratio [OR], 4.74; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.76-12.78; p = 0.002), as well as among patients with high-risk versus low-risk cervical spine injuries (OR, 12.7; 95% CI, 6.24-25.62; p = 0.003). The use of ATT versus no ATT resulted in a decreased risk of stroke (OR, 0.20; 95% CI, 0.06-0.65; p < 0.0001) and mortality (OR, 0.17; 95% CI, 0.08-0.34; p < 0.0001). There was no significant difference in the risk of stroke among patients with Grade II or III injuries who underwent stenting as an adjunct to ATT versus ATT alone (OR, 1.63; 95% CI, 0.2-12.14; p = 0.63).

Conclusion: We recommend using a screening protocol to detect BCVI in blunt polytrauma patients. Among patients with high-risk cervical spine injuries, we recommend screening computed tomography angiography to detect BCVI. For patients with low-risk risk cervical injuries, we conditionally recommend performing a computed tomography angiography to detect BCVI. We recommend the use of ATT in patients diagnosed with BCVI. Finally, we recommend against the routine use of endovascular stents as an adjunct to ATT in patients with Grade II or III BCVIs.

Level of evidence: Guidelines, Level III.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / diagnosis
  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / etiology
  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / therapy*
  • Computed Tomography Angiography / standards
  • Endovascular Procedures / instrumentation
  • Endovascular Procedures / standards
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Head Injuries, Closed / diagnosis
  • Head Injuries, Closed / etiology
  • Head Injuries, Closed / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / standards
  • Multiple Trauma / complications
  • Multiple Trauma / diagnosis
  • Multiple Trauma / therapy*
  • Societies, Medical / standards*
  • Stents
  • Traumatology / methods
  • Traumatology / standards*
  • United States


  • Fibrinolytic Agents