Daniel J. Denis, Daniel Shedid, Mohammad Shehadeh, Alexander G. Weil, Sylvain Lanthier

May 2014, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 206 - 213 Case Report Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-013-2983-2

First Online: 03 September 2013


Spondylotic vertebral artery (VA) compression is a rare cause of vertebrobasilar insufficiency and stroke.

Case description

A 53-year-old man experienced multiple brief vertebrobasilar transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) and strokes, not apparently triggered by neck movements. Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) documented consecutive infarcts, first in the left then right medial posterior inferior cerebellar artery (PICA) territories. Angiography showed two extracranial right vertebral artery (VA) stenoses, left VA hypoplasia, absence of left PICA and a dominant right PICA. Computed tomography angiography revealed right VA compression by osteophytes at C5–C6 and C6–C7 levels. No further vertebrobasilar insufficiency symptoms occurred in the 65 months following VA surgical decompression. Our literature review found 49 published surgical cases with vertebrobasilar symptoms caused by cervical spondylosis. Forty cases had one or more brief TIAs frequently triggered by neck movements. Three cases presented with stroke without prior TIA, with symptoms suggesting a top of the basilar artery embolic infarcts (one combined with a PICA infarct). Six cases had both TIAs and minor stroke. VA compression by uncovertebral osteophytes at the C5–C6 level was common. Dynamic angiography done in 38 cases systematically revealed worsening of VA stenosis or complete occlusion with either neck extension or rotation (ipsilateral when specified). Contralateral VA incompetence was found in 14 patients.


Spondylotic VA stenosis can cause hemodynamic TIAs and watershed strokes, especially when contralateral VA insufficiency is combined to specific neck movements. Low-amplitude neck movement may suffice in severe cases. Embolic vertebrobasilar events are less frequent. VA decompression from spondylosis may prevent recurrent ischemic episodes.

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