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Surg Neurol. 2003 Apr;59(4):300-9; discussion 309.

Vertebral artery complications in anterior approaches to the cervical spine: report of two cases and review of literature.

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Neurosurgical Clinic, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Giessen, Germany.



Cases of lesions to either the carotid artery or the vertebral artery in anterior approaches to the cervical spine are rarely found in medical literature. Two cases of vertebral artery injury in anterior approaches as well as a review of the pertinent literature are presented. In cases of arterial injury, appropriate management strategies are necessary to avoid or minimize harm to the patient.


In the first case, the vertebral artery was injured during decompression of a cervical spinal stenosis while drilling the neuroforamen. Local compression provided sufficient control of hemorrhage. Nevertheless, rebleeding from a pseudoaneurysm occurred 2 days later. After removal of the hematoma, the pseudoaneurysm was treated successfully with coils by an endovascular approach. In the second case, misplacement of one screw in screw-fixation of a type II odontoid fracture caused a pseudoaneurysm of the vertebral artery. This led to a fatal subarachnoid hemorrhage 4 days later.


In ventral approaches to the cervical spine, precise preoperative planning and a detailed knowledge of the surgical anatomy are mandatory. In cases of injury to the vertebral arteries, direct surgical repair is most appropriate to prevent complications arising from fistulas, late-onset hemorrhages, pseudoaneurysms, thrombosis, and emboli. Alternatively, endovascular techniques or even clipping or ligation of the affected artery should be considered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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