Ronald Schulz, Rodrigo Donoso, Karen Weissman

June 2021, Volume 30, Issue 6, pp 1440 - 1450 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-020-06680-5

First Online: 02 January 2021


To review the literature, analyze and discuss diagnostic and treatment options for the Bowhunter Syndrome. A clinical case of idiopathic rotatory C1-C2 subluxation causing dynamic vertebral artery occlusion is presented.


Literature review between 1960 and 2019, discussion of diagnostic methods and treatment options. Description of diagnostic and treatment methods in the aforementioned case.


We present a patient with dynamic left vertebral artery occlusion associated with idiopathic rotatory C1-C2 subluxation. A dynamic Angio-CT showed rotatory C1-C2 subluxation with significant flow reduction at the left vertebral artery at the exit of the C2 transverse foramen until the V3 segment when the head rotated towards the right. Due to clinical and radiological worsening in the following months, posterior C1-C2 arthrodesis was performed, with the disappearance of the symptoms. There are 193 cases reported with dynamic vertebral artery occlusion, but in only two, the etiology was primary rotational atlantoaxial instability. The most prevalent etiology was degenerative.


Rotatory vertebral artery occlusion is a rare condition presented mostly in adults, aged 50–70 years. Vertebrobasilar insufficiency is triggered by the rotation of the head to the contralateral side of the dominant vertebral artery. Dynamic subtraction angiography is considered the diagnostic gold-standard method, but dynamic Angio-CT scan, Angio-MRI, or Doppler ultrasonography are less invasive options. The treatment options are conservative or surgical. Endovascular surgery is another option in specific cases.

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