What are the complications of vertebral artery dissection (VAD)?

Updated: Feb 21, 2019
  • Author: Eddy S Lang, MDCM, CCFP(EM), CSPQ; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Complications include the following:

  • Brainstem infarction

  • Cerebellar infarction

  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage

  • Vertebral artery pseudoaneurysm causing compressive cranial neuropathy

Major complications of vertebral artery dissection include stroke and death. Previous observational studies have yielded stroke rates between 0.3% and 8.5% after vertebral or carotid artery dissection. However, one randomized clinical trial observed a much lower stroke rate of 1.2% at 3 month follow-up and no deaths were reported in this time. [27, 28] As recurrences are rare, any definitive study examining complications following dissection will require large sample sizes.

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