Vertebral artery dissection: issues in diagnosis and management

Pediatr Neurol. 1996 Apr;14(3):255-8. doi: 10.1016/0887-8994(96)00015-x.


Vertebral artery dissection is an uncommon cause of stroke in children. Accuracy of diagnosis by magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) instead of invasive transfemoral angiography (TFA) has been controversial. The need for anticoagulation and duration of such therapy is also arguable. We report 2 boys with vertebral artery dissection: one, aged 7 years, presented with hemiparesis and seizures and the other, aged 4 years, presented with ataxia. Each boy's initial MRA was not interpreted as delineating occlusive lesions to explain the posterior circulation infarcts visualized on computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging scans. However, subsequent MRAs were suspicious for vertebral artery dissection, which was confirmed by TFA. Both children were treated with anticoagulation therapy. The first patient continued to manifest evidence of new infarcts despite treatment (initially with aspirin alone, followed by anticoagulation with heparin and warfarin), and is now maintained on a combination of high dose warfarin and aspirin. The second patient is now maintained on aspirin alone after initial anticoagulation for 6 months with heparin followed by warfarin. A high index of suspicion for vertebral artery dissection may allow diagnosis on the basis of MRA alone. Previous reports have indicated good outcomes of vertebral artery dissection in children and adults irrespective of anticoagulation treatment. Our experience suggests that anticoagulation may be beneficial in preventing further strokes caused by the dissection.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Aortic Dissection / diagnosis*
  • Aortic Dissection / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / diagnosis*
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / drug therapy*
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Vertebral Artery*


  • Anticoagulants