Dissection of the intracranial vertebral artery

Neurology. 1988 Jun;38(6):868-77. doi: 10.1212/wnl.38.6.868.


We describe four patients and review prior reports to clarify the clinical, radiographic, and pathologic findings of intracranial vertebral artery (VA) dissection. A 43-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman had chronic bilateral VA dissecting aneurysms. The man had multiple episodes of subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) and necropsy showed multiple dissections and defects in the internal elastica. The woman had many brainstem TIAs and strokes during 3 years. Two other patients had SAH and unilateral dissections. Intracranial VA dissection causes four overlapping syndromes: (1) brainstem infarcts are usually due to subintimal dissection extending into the basilar artery, affect younger patients, and often are single fatal events; (2) SAH is due to subadventitial or transmural dissection; (3) aneurysms cause mass effect on the brainstem and lower cranial nerves; and (4) chronic dissections due to connective tissue defects cause extensive bilateral aneurysms and repeated TIAs, small strokes, and SAH.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aneurysm, Dissecting* / diagnostic imaging
  • Aneurysm, Dissecting* / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / diagnostic imaging
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / pathology
  • Vertebral Artery* / diagnostic imaging
  • Vertebral Artery* / pathology