Penetrating cerebrovascular injury (PCVI) is a subset of traumatic brain injury (TBI) comprising a broad spectrum of cerebrovascular pathology, including traumatic pseudoaneurysms, direct arterial injury, venous sinus stenosis or occlusion, and traumatic dural arteriovenous fistulas. These can result in immediate or delayed vascular injury and consequent neurological morbidity. Current TBI guidelines recommend cerebrovascular imaging for detection, but there is no consensus on the optimum modality. The aim of this retrospective cohort study was to compare CT angiography (CTA) and digital subtraction angiography (DSA) for the diagnosis of PCVI.
The records of all patients presenting to two level I trauma centers in the United States between January 2010 and July 2016 with penetrating head or neck trauma were reviewed. Only those who had undergone both CTA and DSA were included. Clinical and neuroimaging data were collected, and PCVIs were stratified using a modified Biffl grading scheme. DSA and CTA results were then compared.
Of 312 patients with penetrating trauma over the study period, 56 patients (91% male, mean age 32 years) with PCVI met inclusion criteria and constituted the study cohort. The mechanism of injury was a gunshot wound in 86% (48/56) of patients. Twenty-four (43%) patients had sustained an angiographically confirmed arterial or venous injury. Compared with DSA as the gold standard, CTA had a sensitivity and specificity of 72% and 63%, respectively, for identifying PCVI. CTA had a positive predictive value of 61% and negative predictive value of 70%. Seven patients (13%) required immediate endovascular treatment of PCVI; in 3 (43%) of these patients, the injury was not identified on CTA. Twenty-two patients (39%) underwent delayed DSA an average of 25 days after injury; 2 (9%) of these patients were found to harbor new pathological conditions requiring treatment.
In this retrospective analysis of PCVI at two large trauma centers, CTA demonstrated low sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values for the diagnosis of PCVI. These findings suggest that DSA provides better accuracy than CTA in the diagnosis of both immediate and delayed PCVI and should be considered for patients experiencing penetrating head or neck trauma.