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Am J Emerg Med. 2012 Jan;30(1):249.e5-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2010.09.026. Epub 2010 Oct 25.

Neurologic complication after a roller coaster ride.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Albert Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA 19141, USA.


Neurologic complications after roller coaster rides are uncommon but potentially catastrophic. Physicians should have a high index of suspicion and prompt appropriate investigation. A 22-year-old healthy African American man presented with a 2-day history of constant occipital headache associated with vertigo, nausea, vomiting, and ambulatory dysfunction. Physical examination showed gait ataxia, slight dysmetria, and vertical nystagmus. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain showed early subacute ischemic infarct in the right cerebellum in the distribution of the right posterior inferior cerebellar artery. Magnetic resonance angiography of the neck showed focal dissection of the right vertebral artery at C1 through C2 level. On subsequent questioning, the patient recollected riding a roller coaster 2 weeks before the onset of symptoms. Anticoagulation with heparin was started, and the patient was bridged to oral warfarin. After a 5-day uneventful hospital course, symptoms improved and patient was discharged on oral anticoagulation. Cervicocephalic arterial dissections after roller coaster rides are rarely described in literature. The acceleration and abrupt changes of direction might lead to indirect trauma that is applied to mobile portions of the cervicocephalic arteries leading to intimal tears. Magnetic resonance angiography combined with axial T1-weighted cervical MRI is preferred because it is a high-sensitive, noninvasive test. The rationale for the use of anticoagulants or antiplatelets in patients with cervicocephalic arterial dissection is to prevent early recurrence and infarction. However, a meta-analysis failed to show significant difference in the rates of disability or death between both groups. Therefore, the decision for medical treatment should be made in a case-by-case basis.

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