Objective: To describe the clinical features of patients with occlusive disease of the proximal (V1) segment of the vertebral artery.
Design and patients: Patients with either occlusion or high-grade stenosis involving the V1 segment were chosen for study from the New England Medical Center Posterior Circulation Registry. The registry is a consecutive series of patients with signs and symptoms of posterior circulation ischemia seen at the New England Medical Center, Boston, Mass, during a 10-year period. Clinical features, radiographic findings, and patient outcome were reviewed.
Results: Of the 407 patients in the registry, 80 (20%) had V1 segment lesions. Patients could be classified into 5 groups: (1) V1 disease and coexistent severe intracranial occlusive disease of the posterior circulation (n=22); (2) V1 disease with evidence of artery-to-artery embolism (n=19); (3) suspected V1 disease with artery-to-artery embolism, but with other potential causes of stroke or less certain vascular diagnosis (n=20); (4) V1 disease associated with hemodynamic transient ischemic attacks (n=13); and (5) proximal vertebral arterial dissection (n=6). Hypertension, cigarette smoking, and coronary artery disease were common risk factors. Clinical features, location of infarct, and outcome differed between groups and reflected the presumed mechanisms of stroke.
Conclusions: Occlusive disease involving the V1 segment of the vertebral artery is common in patients with posterior circulation ischemia, but is often associated with other potential mechanisms of stroke. However, in a series of patients seen at a tertiary referral center, occlusive disease of the V1 segment was the primary mechanism of ischemia in 9% of patients.