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Stroke. 1995 Nov;26(11):2194-6.

Delayed onset of fatal basilar thrombotic embolus after whiplash injury.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Hillerød Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.



Whiplash injuries are generally seen after rear-end rather than frontal car collisions. Previous reports have documented death up to 8 days after serious whiplash injury. We report a case of lethal basilar thrombotic embolus that occurred 2 months after the patient's injury in a collision.


After whiplash trauma in a car accident, a 50-year-old taxi driver suffered from headache and episodic visual disturbances. Two months after the accident he suddenly lost consciousness and was admitted to the hospital. A CT scan performed at that time was indicative of basilar thrombosis. The patient died 3 days later. The autopsy revealed a thrombosis in the right vertebral artery and a thrombotic embolus in the basilar artery. Microscopically, a lesion of the right vertebral artery was found at the level of the atlantoaxial joint.


We conclude that the whiplash injury caused a lesion of the right vertebral artery, leading to repeated transient ischemic attacks and finally to a fatal basilar thrombotic embolus. We suggest that in patients with disturbances of the vertebrobasilar circulation, attention should be paid to occurrence of neck trauma in the preceding 3 months. Further, anticoagulant therapy should particularly be considered in patients who after suffering neck injuries develop signs of transient ischemic attacks with origin from the posterior cerebral circulation.

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