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01.12.2014 | Case report | Ausgabe 1/2014 Open Access

Journal of Medical Case Reports 1/2014

Embolic brain infarction related to posttraumatic occlusion of vertebral artery resulting from cervical spine injury: a case report

Journal of Medical Case Reports > Ausgabe 1/2014
Yaoki Nakao, Hiroshi Terai
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​1752-1947-8-344) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

Both authors are the main health care providers for this patient. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.



The frequency of vertebrobasilar ischemia in patients with cervical spine trauma had been regarded as low in many published papers. However, some case reports have described cervical spine injury associated with blunt vertebral artery injury. Many aspects of the management of vertebral artery injuries still remain controversial, including the screening criteria, the diagnostic modality, and the optimal treatment for various lesions. The case of a patient who had a brain infarction due to recanalization of his occluded vertebral artery following open reduction of cervical spinal dislocation is presented here.

Case presentation

A 41-year-old Asian man presented with C4 to C5 distractive flexion injury manifesting with quadriplegia and anesthesia below his C3 cord level (including phrenic nerve paralysis), and bowel and bladder dysfunction. Magnetic resonance angiography and computed tomography angiography showed left extracranial vertebral artery occlusion and patent contralateral vertebral artery. He was observed without antiplatelet and/or anticoagulation therapy, and underwent surgery (open reduction and internal fusion of C4 to C5, and tracheostomy) 8 hours after the injury. After surgery, supraspinal symptoms such as left horizontal nystagmus and left homonymous hemianopsia led to cranial computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, which showed left-side cerebellar infarction in his posterior inferior cerebellar artery territory and right-side posterior cerebral artery infarction. Magnetic resonance angiography and computed tomography angiography demonstrated patent bilateral vertebral artery (but hypoplastic right vertebral artery) and occluded right posterior cerebral artery. His injured vertebral artery was treated conservatively, which did not cause any other ischemic complications.


The management of asymptomatic vertebral artery injury is controversial with several treatment options available, including observation alone, antiplatelet therapy, anticoagulation therapy, or invasive intervention. Although there are some reports in which management with observation alone is described as safe, we should pay serious attention to the vertebral artery injury caused by cervical spine trauma.

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