Cervical vertebral angioplasty for brain stem ischemia

Surgery. 1981 Nov;90(5):842-52.


Fifty-eight patients underwent unilateral vertebral arterial reconstructions over a 16-year period. Thirty-four underwent carotid operations as well. The first 18 patients underwent vertebral arterial reconstructions in conjunction with carotid endarterectomy as mandated in the Joint Study of Extracranial Arterial Occlusion as a Cause of Stoke. The next 40 underwent vertebral procedures for either brain stem symptoms alone, or for combined cerebral cortical and stem symptoms for specific indications after flow-obstructing carotid lesions had been corrected, but symptoms failed to subside. The surgical procedure consisted of subclavian-vertebral angioplasty except in one patient who underwent a subclavian distal-vertebral bypass graft to the level of the second cervical vertebral body. Syncopal episodes occurred as a major symptom in 16 and was controlled by either carotid and vertebral or vertebral artery operation alone except in four who also required cardiac pacemakers and one who needed correction of aortic stenosis. The long-term follow-up reveals that the stroke rate per average year for the first 14 years of follow-up was 1.2% per patient year with only five strokes having occurred in 410 patient years of follow-up and 70% of the patients having sustained no new neurologic episodes at the fourteenth year. Survival, however, was 45% at the fourteenth year with most deaths caused by myocardial infarction. The surgical procedure of vertebral angioplasty is indicated when bilateral vertebral arterial flow-obstructing lesions are found in patients with brain stem ischemia including drop attacks and syncopal episodes if flow-obstructing carotid lesions have been corrected and symptoms persist. The surgical procedure can be performed with a high degree of safety. The differential diagnosis of drop attacks and syncope in this age group should include, in addition to vertebrobasilar arterial insufficiency, transient cardiac arrhythmias, aortic stenosis, and convulsive disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Stem / blood supply
  • Carotid Arteries / surgery
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / prevention & control
  • Endarterectomy
  • Humans
  • Methods
  • Vertebral Artery / surgery*
  • Vertebrobasilar Insufficiency / surgery*