Symptomatic nonsaccular vertebrobasilar aneurysms (NSVBAs) are associated with high rates of aneurysm-related death. Anecdotal evidence suggests that brainstem infarction may be a harbinger of aneurysm rupture. The authors aimed to investigate the association between brainstem infarction and subsequent NSVBA rupture.
The clinical records and radiographic imaging studies of patients presenting to the authors’ institution between 1996 and 2019 for evaluation and management of an NSVBA were retrospectively reviewed to determine the effect of perforating artery infarction on the natural history of NSVBAs. Kaplan-Meier curves for patients with and patients without perforator infarction were constructed, and predictors of aneurysm rupture were identified using a multivariate Cox proportional hazards model.
There were 98 patients with 591.3 person-years of follow-up who met the inclusion criteria for analysis. There were 20 patients who experienced perforator infarction during follow-up. Ten patients (10.2%) experienced aneurysm rupture during follow-up and 26 patients (26.5%) died due to aneurysm-related complications, with annual rates of rupture and aneurysm-related death of 1.7% and 4.4%, respectively. Five patients with a perforator infarction later experienced aneurysm rupture, with a median time between infarction and rupture of 3 months (range 0–35 months). On multivariate analysis, the presence of intraaneurysmal thrombus (risk ratio [RR] 4.01, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.12–14.44, p = 0.033) and perforator infarction (RR 6.37, 95% CI 1.07–37.95, p = 0.042) were independently associated with risk of aneurysm rupture.
NSVBAs continue to be extremely challenging clinical entities with a poor prognosis. These results suggest that brainstem infarction due to perforating artery occlusion may be a harbinger of near-term aneurysm rupture.