Natural History of Blunt Cerebrovascular Injury: Experience Over a 10-year Period at a Level I Trauma Center

Radiology. 2020 Nov;297(2):428-435. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2020192866. Epub 2020 Sep 8.


Background Blunt cerebrovascular injury (BCVI) is associated with increased stroke and mortality risk. However, the most appropriate follow-up strategy remains uncertain. Purpose To better understand the natural history of BCVI and help define the most optimal timing and length of follow-up imaging. Materials and Methods In this retrospective HIPAA-compliant study, data from all patients treated for BCVI at a level I trauma center between April 1, 2005, and June 30, 2015, were reviewed. For patients with at least one follow-up study, time-to-event analysis was performed to assess the trend in injury evolution. Association of injury grade and injury evolution was also assessed. The Fisher exact test and multivariable logistic regression were used to evaluate association of the number of injured vessels, vessel grade, and vessel type (internal carotid artery, vertebral artery) with BCVI-associated stroke. Results A total of 1204 patients (800 men; mean age ± standard deviation, 45 years ± 22) with 1604 vessel injuries were evaluated. High-grade (grades 3-5) injuries were less likely to resolve (hazard ratio [HR], 0.2; P < .001) than low-grade injuries. High-grade injuries were more likely to progress than low-grade injuries (HR, 3.3; P = .005). Of the injuries that improved or resolved (343 of 419 [81.9%]), 76% (259 of 343) changed within 30 days after the initial injury, and the remaining 24% (84 of 343) changed between 30 and 90 days. Of the injuries that progressed (46 of 419 [11.0%]), 87% (40 of 46) changed within 90 days. Beyond 90 days, no improvement or resolution occurred, and only 1.4% (six of 419) of injuries progressed. Higher injury grade (adjusted odds ratio, 2.0 per one-grade increase [95% confidence interval {CI}: 1.6, 2.4]; P < .001), carotid injuries versus vertebral artery injuries (49 of 420 [11.7%] vs 35 of 667 [5.2%]; P < .001), and increasing number of vessels injured per patient (adjusted odds ratio, 1.6 per one-vessel increase [95% CI: 1.3, 2.2]; P < .001) were associated with increased risk for BCVI-related stroke. Conclusion Most blunt cerebrovascular injury-related changes occurred within 30 days; changes rarely occurred beyond 90 days. Follow-up imaging is therefore unlikely to be helpful beyond 90 days. © RSNA, 2020 See also the editorial by Talbott in this issue.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Computed Tomography Angiography*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Trauma Centers
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnostic imaging*