Timing and mechanism of ischemic stroke due to extracranial blunt traumatic cerebrovascular injury

Clinical article

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  • 1 Departments of Surgery,
  • 2 Radiology, and
  • 3 Neurology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Alabama
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Object

Extracranial cerebrovascular injury is believed to be an important cause of neurological injury in patients who have suffered blunt trauma. The authors sought to determine the timing and mechanisms of ischemic stroke in patients who suffered traumatic cerebrovascular injury (TCVI).

Methods

This is a prospective study of all patients with TCVI who were admitted to a Level I trauma center during a 28-month period. All patients who suffered blunt trauma and had risk factors for TCVI underwent screening CT angiography (CTA) of the head and neck on admission. All patients with either an ischemic stroke or CTA suggesting TCVI underwent confirmatory digital subtraction angiography (DSA). Patients with DSA-confirmed TCVI were treated with 325 mg aspirin daily; all patients were observed during their hospitalization for the occurrence of new ischemic stroke. In addition, a subset of patients with TCVI underwent transcranial Doppler ultrasonography monitoring for microembolic signals.

Results

A total of 112 patients had CTA findings suggestive of TCVI; 68 cases were confirmed by DSA. Overall, 7 patients had an ischemic stroke in the territory of the affected artery prior to or during admission. Four of the patients had their event prior to diagnosis with CTA and 2 occurred prior to DSA. In 1 patient the ischemic stroke was found to be due to an extracranial atherosclerotic carotid plaque, and this patient was excluded from further analysis. All patients with ischemic stroke had brain CT findings consistent with an embolic mechanism. Two (8.7%) of 23 monitored patients with TCVI had microembolic signals on transcranial Doppler ultrasonography.

Conclusions

Most ischemic strokes due to TCVI are embolic in nature and occur prior to screening CTA and initiation of treatment with aspirin.

Abbreviations used in this paper:BA = basilar artery; CA = carotid artery; CTA = CT angiography; DSA = digital subtraction angiography; GCS = Glasgow Coma Scale; ICA = internal carotid artery; MCA = middle cerebral artery; MES = microembolic signal; TCD = transcranial Doppler; TCVI = traumatic cerebrovascular injury; VA = vertebral artery.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Mark R. Harrigan, M.D., Faculty Office Tower 1005, 510 20th Street South, Birmingham, Alabama 35294. email: mharrigan@uabmc.edu.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online December 7, 2012; DOI: 10.3171/2012.11.JNS121038.

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