Vertebral artery stenosis from osteophyte: A systematic review and case series

Neurochirurgie. 2024 May;70(3):101525. doi: 10.1016/j.neuchi.2023.101525. Epub 2024 Jan 29.


Background: Rotational vertebral artery syndrome, also referred to as Bow Hunter's syndrome (BHS), manifests when the vertebral artery (VA) is compressed following head rotation. This compression is often caused by an osteophyte and may lead to symptoms of a posterior stroke. This systematic review aims to shed light on the current management strategies for BHS resulting from osteophytes. Additionally, we present two illustrative cases where the VA compression by an osteophyte was effectively resolved by complete resection of the problematic bone spur.

Methods: A literature search was conducted across Embase, PubMed and Medline in September 2023. Keywords related to vertebral artery [MESH], vertebrobasilar insufficiency [MESH] and osteophyte [MESH] were the focus of this review. Risk of bias in retained studies was assessed using the Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal tools for Qualitative Research. A narrative synthesis of our findings is presented.

Results: A total of 30 studies were included in this review. Vertigo was the most reported symptom by patients (n = 16). On imaging, the VA was often compressed at C4-5 (n = 10) and C5-6 (n = 10) with no evident side predominance observed. Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF, n = 13) followed by anterior decompression without fusion (n = 8) were the most performed surgical procedures to manage BHS.

Conclusion: Surgical decompression of the VA is a safe and effective intervention for patients experiencing symptomatic osteophytic compression during head rotation. This procedure restores normal vascular function and reduces the risk of ischemic events. This review highlights the importance of timely diagnosis and intervention in such cases.

Keywords: Beauty parlor stroke syndrome; Bow hunter’s syndrome; Osteophyte; Rotational vertebral artery syndrome; Vertebral artery; Vertebrobasilar insufficiency.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Decompression, Surgical / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteophyte* / complications
  • Osteophyte* / surgery
  • Spinal Fusion / methods
  • Vertebral Artery / diagnostic imaging
  • Vertebral Artery / surgery
  • Vertebrobasilar Insufficiency* / surgery