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Microvascular decompression of a vertebral artery loop causing cervical radiculopathy: illustrative case

Alexa Semonche, Lorenzo Rinaldo, Young Lee, Todd Dubnicoff, Harlan Matles, Dean Chou, Adib Abla, and Edward F Chang


Vertebral artery loops are a rare cause of cervical radiculopathy. Surgical options for nerve root decompression include an anterior or posterior approach, with or without additional microvascular decompression.


The authors describe a case of a 49-year-old man with a long-standing history of left-sided neck pain and migraines, who was found to have a vertebral artery loop in the left C3–4 neural foramen compressing the left C4 nerve root. The patient underwent a posterior cervical decompression with instrumented fusion and macrovascular decompression of the left C4 nerve root via Teflon felt insertion. In a literature review, we identified 20 similar cases that had also been managed surgically.


Although the anterior approach is more frequently described in the literature, a posterior approach for nerve compression by a vertebral artery loop is also a safe and effective treatment. The authors report the third case of this surgical approach with a good outcome.