Vertebrobasilar ectasia in patients with lacunar stroke: the secondary prevention of small subcortical strokes trial

Makoto Nakajima, Lesly A Pearce, Nobuyuki Ohara, Thalia S Field, Carlos Bazan, David C Anderson, Robert G Hart, Oscar R Benavente
Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases: the Official Journal of National Stroke Association 2015, 24 (5): 1052-8

BACKGROUND: The clinical implications of vertebrobasilar ectasia (VBE) in patients with cerebral small-artery disease are not well defined. We investigated whether VBE is associated with recurrent stroke, major hemorrhage, and death in a large cohort of patients with recent lacunar stroke.

METHODS: Maximum diameters of the vertebral and basilar arteries were measured by magnetic resonance angiography and computed tomographic angiography in 2621 participants in the Secondary Prevention of Small Subcortical Strokes trial. VBE was defined a priori as basilar artery greater than 4.5 mm and/or vertebral artery greater than 4.0 mm. Patient characteristics and risks of stroke recurrence and mortality during follow-up (median, 3.5 years) were compared between patients with and without VBE.

RESULTS: VBE affecting 1 or more arteries was present in 200 (7.6%) patients. Patient features independently associated with VBE were increasing age, male sex, white race ethnicity, hypertension, and higher baseline diastolic blood pressure. Baseline systolic blood pressure was inversely associated with VBE. After adjustment for other risk factors, VBE was not predictive of recurrent stroke (hazard ratio [HR], 1.3; 95% confidence interval [CI], .85-1.9) or major hemorrhage (HR, 1.5; CI, .94-2.6), but was of death (HR, 1.7; CI, 1.1-2.7).

CONCLUSIONS: In this large well-characterized cohort of patients with recent lacunar stroke, VBE was predictive of death but not of recurrent stroke or major hemorrhage. In these exploratory analyses, the frequency of VBE was directly related to diastolic blood pressure but inversely related to systolic blood pressure.

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