Risk factors, radiological features, and infarct topography of craniocervical arterial dissection


  • Conflict of interest: None declared.



Craniocervical arterial dissection is a common cause of ischemic stroke in the young to middle-aged population. There have been a number of previous studies where radiological features have been described but few with detailed mapping of infarct topography and none where these features have been related to the reported risk factors.


The aims of this study were to describe the radiological characteristics of dissection patients ≤55 years and relate these to reported risk factors.


Craniocervical arterial dissection cases ≤55 years, and age- and gender-matched controls were identified from a medical records database between 1998 and 2009. Control cases had stroke from another cause than dissection. Records and radiology were reviewed.


Thirty-six radiologically confirmed dissection cases [20 (56%) vertebral artery, 16 (44%) internal carotid], and 43 controls were identified. Dissections were extracranial with intracranial extension in 10 (28%) cases. Infarction was demonstrated in 22 (61%) dissection cases. The most common wall deficit identified was an intimal flap. Twenty-three (64%) dissection cases had a recent history of neck trauma (P > 0·000) and 13 (36%) had vascular variants (P = 0·013).


Craniocervical arterial dissection cases, particularly vertebral artery, were more likely to have a history of neck trauma. Dissections were most commonly extracranial, in the upper cervical region, with intracranial extension in 28%. Dissection cases with trauma more commonly had a dissection flap and evidence of infarction in the lateral medulla, anterior or posterior inferior cerebellar artery territory. Close inspection of the V3 segment of the vertebral or skull base for internal carotid artery may be warranted with a history of neck trauma.