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Emergency Medical Minute


Dec 17, 2018

Author: Don Stader, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Vertebral artery dissection (VAD) contributes to just 2% of strokes overall but ~25% of strokes for patients < 30
  • VAD is associated with minor trauma (chiropractic manipulation, yoga), typically with neck extension and rotation.
  • VAD can cause posterior stroke symptoms (vertigo, diplopia, Horner’s Syndrome, Wallenberg Syndrome)
  • Overall a good prognosis with around 50% of patients recovering without lasting neurologic deficits.


Debette S, Leys D. Cervical-artery dissections: predisposing factors, diagnosis, and outcome. Lancet Neurol. 2009 Jul;8(7):668-78. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(09)70084-5. Review. PubMed PMID: 19539238.

Gottesman RF, Sharma P, Robinson KA, et al. Clinical characteristics of symptomatic vertebral artery dissection: a systematic review. Neurologist. 2012;18(5):245-54.

Schievink WI. Spontaneous dissection of the carotid and vertebral arteries. N Engl J Med. 2001 Mar 22;344(12):898-906. Review. PubMed PMID: 11259724.


Summarized by Travis Barlock, MS4 | Edited by Erik Verzemnieks, MD