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Non-penetrating head and neck trauma is associated with extracranial traumatic vertebral artery injury (eTVAI) in approximately 1–2% of cases. Most patients are initially asymptomatic but have an increased risk for delayed stroke and mortality. Limited evidence is available to guide the management of asymptomatic eTVAI. As such, we sought to investigate national practice patterns regarding screening, treatment, and follow-up domains.
A cross-sectional, electronic survey was distributed to members of the Canadian Neurosurgical Society and Canadian Spine Society. We presented two cases of asymptomatic eTVAI, stratified by injury mechanism, fracture type, and angiographic findings. Screening questions were answered prior to presentation of angiographic findings. Survey responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics.
One hundred-eight of 232 (46%) participants, representing 20 academic institutions, completed the survey. Case 1: 78% of respondents would screen for eTVAI with computed topography angiography (CTA) (97%), immediately (88%). The majority of respondents (97%) would treat with aspirin (89%) for 3–6 months (46%). Respondents would follow up clinically (89%) or radiographically (75%), every 1–3 months. Case 2: 73% of respondents would screen with CTA (96%), immediately (88%). Most respondents (94%) would treat with aspirin (50%) for 3–6 months (35%). Thirty-six percent of respondents would utilize endovascular therapy. Respondents would follow up clinically (97%) or radiographically (89%), every 1–3 months.
This survey of Canadian practice patterns highlights consistency in the approach to screening, treatment, and follow-up of asymptomatic eTVAI. These findings are relevant to neurosurgeons, spinal surgeons, stroke neurologists, and neuro-interventionalists.