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Neurocrit Care. 2014 Oct;21(2):253-8. doi: 10.1007/s12028-013-9937-8.

Incidence and outcome of vertebral artery dissection in trauma setting: analysis of national trauma data base.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, The George Washington University, 2150 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, 9th Floor, Washington, DC, 20037, USA, majidis@gwu.edu.



The natural history and epidemiological aspects of traumatic vertebral artery dissection (VAD) are not fully understood. We determined the prevalence of VAD and impact on outcome of patients with head and neck trauma.


All the patients who were admitted with traumatic brain injury or head and neck trauma were identified by ICD-9-CM codes from the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB), using data files from 2009 to 2010. NTDB represents one of the largest trauma databases and contains data from over 900 trauma centers across the United States. Presence of VAD was identified in these patients by using ICD-9-CM codes. Admission Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score, injury severity score (ISS), in-hospital complications, and treatment outcome were compared between patients with and without VAD.


A total of 84 VAD patients were identified which comprised 0.01 % of all patients admitted with head and neck trauma. The mean age (in years) for patients with VAD was significantly higher than patients without dissection [46 (95 % CI 41-50) vs. 41.3 (95 % CI 41.2-41.4); p = 0.003]. The proportion of patients presenting with GCS score <9 was significantly higher in patients with VAD (31 vs. 12 %, p < 0.0001). The rate of cervical vertebral fracture was significantly higher in patients with VAD (71 vs. 11 %, p < 0.0001). Patients with VAD had higher rates of in-hospital stroke than patients without dissection (5 vs. 0.2 %, p < 0.0001). Numbers of ICU days, ventilator days, and hospital length of stays were all significantly higher in patients with VAD. These differences remained significant after adjusting for the demographics, admission GCS score, and ISS (p < 0.0001). A total of 7 % (N = 6) of the patients with VAD received endovascular treatment and there was no in-hospital stroke in these patients. Patients with VAD had a higher chance of discharge to nursing facilities in comparison to head trauma patients without VAD (OR: 2.1; 95 % CI 1.4-3.5; p < 0.0001).


Although infrequent, VAD in head and neck trauma is associated with higher rates of in-hospital stroke and longer length of ICU stay and total hospital stay. Early diagnosis and endovascular treatment may be an alternative option to reduce the rate of in-hospital stroke in these patients.

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