Do human intracranial arteries lack vasa vasorum? A comparative immunohistochemical study of intracranial and systemic arteries

Acta Neuropathol. 1998 Jul;96(1):22-8. doi: 10.1007/s004010050856.


Vasa vasorum are adventitial vessels that play a role in pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, aneurysm, vasculitides, and graft vascular disease. The existence of vasa vasorum in human intracranial arteries is not yet well defined. The specific aims of this study are to determine whether the human intracranial arteries have vasa vasorum, whether their existence is related to the thickness of tunica media as is in systemic vessels, and whether they are acquired in reaction to pathological conditions, such as atherosclerosis and arterial occlusion. Human intracranial internal carotid (i-ICA), vertebral (i-VA), basilar (BA) and middle cerebral arteries (MCA) from adults, children and newborns were examined. Systemic vessels of comparable medial thickness were used as controls. Immunohistochemical staining for Factor VIII and CD 31 was used to identify the endothelial cells. Human intracranial arteries in neonates, children and adults do not have vasa vasorum, although their medial thickness is comparable to their systemic counterparts with vasa vasorum. Only in adults did the proximal intracranial segments of i-ICA and i-VA reveal a few vasa vasorum-like vessels with unusually large diameter. They were more frequently seen in atherosclerosis and thrombotic but again limited to the proximal segments of i-ICA and i-VA. Completely obstructed bilateral carotid arteries in a child with sickle cell disorder revealed a rich adventitial neovascularization in the proximal intracranial part of the vessel. It is not yet known whether obstruction of the distal segments may create similar neovascularizations. Adventitial neovascularizations seen in the proximal i-ICA and i-VA may represent a focal intracranial extension of the vascular pathologies involving the extracranial segments of major cerebral arteries.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arteries / anatomy & histology*
  • Biomarkers
  • Cerebral Arteries / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / physiology
  • Tunica Media / anatomy & histology
  • Vasa Vasorum / anatomy & histology*


  • Biomarkers