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Stroke. 1999 Dec;30(12):2692-6.

Reference values for vertebral artery flow volume by duplex sonography in young and elderly adults.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University Mainz, Germany. seidel@neurologie.klinik.uni-mainz.de



Vertebrobasilar ischemia has been attributed to a reduction of net vertebral artery flow volume, the product of mean flow velocity and the cross-sectional area of the vessel. It can be determined by duplex sonography. There are no reference values for vertebral artery flow volume in an age group representative of patients with cerebrovascular disease.


We examined 50 nonvascular neurological patients (age 55.8+/-14.0 years). Flow velocities and vessel diameters were recorded in the intertransverse (V2) segments bilaterally, and the flow volume was calculated according to the following equations: (1) Q1=time-averaged mean velocity times area and (2) Q2=(time-averaged maximum velocity/2)times area.


Flow velocities and vessel diameters tended to be lower on the right side, resulting in a lower flow volume. Flow volumes (according to Equation 1) were 77.2+/-29.8 mL/min on the right side, 105.3+/-46.4 mL/min on the left side, and 182.0+/-56.0 mL/min net. Side-to-side differences were not significant. Flow volumes calculated with the 2 equations did not differ significantly. An age dependence could not be shown, but vessel diameters and net vertebral artery flow volumes were significantly lower in women than in men. The normal range for net vertebral artery flow volume defined by the 5th to 95th percentiles is between 102.4 and 301.0 mL/min. This wide range is due to the high interindividual variability of the parameters.


On the basis of the reference values presented here, the association of decreased vertebral artery flow volume and vertebrobasilar ischemia should be reevaluated. Additional areas for investigation include the quantification of collateral flow in the vertebral arteries in carotid artery occlusive disease and their contribution to overall cerebral blood flow volume.

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