Deliberate basilar or vertebral artery occlusion in the treatment of intracranial aneurysms

Immediate results and long-term outcome in 201 patients

Gary K. Steinberg M.D., Ph.D.1, Charles G. Drake M.D., F.R.C.S.(C)1, and Sydney J. Peerless M.D., F.R.C.S.(C)1
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  • 1 Department of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California; Division of Neurosurgery, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada; and Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Florida
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✓ Deliberate occlusion of the basilar or vertebral arteries was performed in 201 patients with intracranial aneurysms, where the aneurysmal neck could not be clipped directly. The aneurysms arose from the basilar apex in 83 cases, the basilar trunk in 46, the vertebrobasilar junction in 35, and the vertebral artery in 37; 87% of the aneurysms were classified as giant lesions (> 2.5 cm). There were 85 upper basilar occlusions, 41 lower basilar occlusions, 29 bilateral vertebral occlusions, and 48 unilateral vertebral artery occlusions. The clinical follow-up period varied from 1 to 23 years, with a mean of 9.5 years. Overall long-term results were excellent in 68% of the patients, good in 5%, and poor in 3%; 24% died. Clinical outcome varied according to aneurysm site; excellent or good results were achieved in 64% of the patients with basilar apex, 76% with basilar trunk, 74% with vertebrobasilar junction, and 87% with vertebral artery aneurysms. Clinical outcome also varied depending on preoperative grade: 86% of the patients with an excellent presenting grade achieved excellent results. The size of the posterior communicating arteries was a good predictor of tolerance to basilar artery occlusion (p < 0.05). Successful aneurysm thrombosis was achieved in 78% of the patients.

The neurological status in 26 patients (13%) deteriorated due to vertebrobasilar ischemia occurring within the 1st postoperative week, and thrombosis or embolism was implicated much more frequently than hemodynamic insufficiency. Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) in 14 patients, vasospasm in five patients, and surgical trauma in seven patients accounted for additional morbidity in the 1st month following operation; however, many of these patients ultimately made an excellent recovery. Late vertebrobasilar ischemic complications or neurological deterioration from persistent mass effect occurred in 4% of patients with successful aneurysm thrombosis 6 weeks to 18 months after arterial ligation. Among the 43 patients with incompletely thrombosed aneurysms, 67% developed early or late neurological deterioration from SAH, progressive brain-stem compression, or brain-stem stroke, with 86% of the complications proving fatal.

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Contributor Notes

Address for Dr. Drake: Division of Neurosurgery, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.Address for Dr. Peerless: Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Florida.Address reprint requests to: Gary K. Steinberg, M.D., Ph.D., S006, Department of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305.
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