JOURNAL ARTICLE

Angiographic frequency of blunt cerebrovascular injury in patients with carotid canal or vertebral foramen fractures on multidetector CT

Alexander McKinney, Frederick Ott, James Short, Zeke McKinney, Charles Truwit
European Journal of Radiology 2007, 62 (3): 385-93
17399930

PURPOSE: Blunt carotid injuries (BCI's) and blunt vertebral artery injuries (BVI's), known jointly as BCVI's, are common in "high risk" patients. The purpose is to evaluate the rate of occurrence of BCI/BVI in patients screened purely by the radiologic criteria of fracture through the carotid canal or vertebral transverse foramina, or significant cervical subluxation, noted by multidetector CT.

METHODS: Seventy-one patients with 108 catheterized vessels were included over a 13-month interval. The angiographic examinations were prompted by current hospital protocol, solely by the presence of fractures involving/adjacent to the carotid canal, cervical fractures involving/adjacent to the foramen transversarium, or cervical fractures with significant subluxation. The incidence of each grade of blunt injury was calculated after review of the CT scans and catheter angiograms by two neuroradiologists.

RESULTS: Two thousand and seventy-three total blunt trauma admissions occurred during the time period, with a BCVI rate of 0.92-1.0% (depending on the reviewer), similar to previous studies. Mean time to catheter angiography was 16.6 h. Of the 71 included patients, there were 11-12 BCI's and 10-12 BVI's, an overall rate of 27-30% of BCVI in the patients with foraminal fractures. Interobserver agreement in reviewing the catheter angiograms was excellent (Kappa 0.795). Of note, three internal carotid pseudoaneurysms resolved spontaneously after anticoagulation or aspirin.

CONCLUSION: This study confirms that there is a high rate of BCVI in the presence of carotid canal or vertebral foramen fractures that are noted by multidetector CT. Utilization of purely radiologic criteria of foraminal involvement may be a significant screening tool in the decision of whether to evaluate these patients acutely by catheter or CT angiography, and for early detection of patients at risk for symptomatology, to initiate prompt, prophylactic treatment.

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