Ischemic stroke secondary to self-inflicted carotid sinus massage: a case report

J Med Case Rep. 2021 Feb 23;15(1):83. doi: 10.1186/s13256-021-02680-1.


Background: The risk of stroke after carotid sinus massage is greater if there is preexisting carotid stenosis or carotid plaques. We present the case of a patient with underlying 40% carotid stenosis, who developed a watershed stroke after a self-neck massage in our stroke unit. We show a well-documented case with magnetic resonance images before and after the neck massage. We report a case of a watershed brain infarct after a self-massage of the carotid sinus, with preexisting carotid artery stenosis. Neck massage continues to be a significant cause of stroke and should therefore not be performed by patients. Clinicians must be aware of the implications of a carotid sinus massage in both the outpatient and inpatient settings.

Case presentation: We admitted a 58-year-old white male patient, with no relevant medical history, to our department with a brain stem infarct. During his stay at our stroke unit, the patient performed a self-neck massage with consecutive bradycardia and asystole, resulting in left-side hemiparesis. The underlying cause of the hemodynamic stroke is believed to be secondary to this intensive neck massage performed by the patient. The patient also suffered from unknown right internal carotid artery stenosis.

Conclusion: Clinicians and patients must be aware that neck massage can lead to ischemic stroke. We postulate that repetitive impaired cardiac output can lead to a hemodynamic (watershed-type) stroke.

Keywords: Carotid sinus; Carotid stenosis; Carotid web; Neck massage; Watershed-type stroke.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Brain Ischemia / etiology*
  • Brain Stem Infarctions / etiology
  • Carotid Sinus*
  • Carotid Stenosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Electrocardiography
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Stroke / etiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Massage / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged