Carotid artery injury in anterior cervical Spine surgery: Multicenter cohort study and literature review

Roger Härtl, Marjan Alimi, Mohamed Abdelatif Boukebir, Connor D. Berlin, Rodrigo Navarro-Ramirez, Paul M. Arnold, Michael G. Fehlings, Thomas E. Mroz, K. Daniel Riew

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Study Design: Retrospective study and literature review. Objective: To provide more comprehensive data about carotid artery injury (CAI) or cerebrovascular accident (CVA) related to anterior cervical spine surgery. Methods: We conducted a retrospective, multicenter, case series study involving 21 high-volume surgical centers from the AOSpine North America Clinical Research Network. Medical records of 17 625 patients who went through cervical spine surgery (levels from C2 to C7) between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2011, were analyzed. Also, we performed a literature review using Medline and PubMed databases. The following terms were used alone, and in combination, to search for relevant articles: cervical, spine, surgery, complication, iatrogenic, carotid artery, injury, cerebrovascular accident, CVA, and carotid stenosis. Results: Among 17 625 patients that were analyzed, no cases were reported to experienced CAI or CVA after cervical spine surgery. Nevertheless, in our PubMed search we found 157 articles, but only 5 articles matched our study objective criteria; 2 cases were reported to present CAI and 3 cases presented CVA. Conclusions: CAI and CVA related to anterior cervical spine surgeries are extremely rare. We were not able to find neither in our retrospective study nor in our literature research a correlation between the type or length of anterior cervical spine procedure with CVA or CAI complications. However, surgeons should be aware of the possibility of vascular complications and minimize intraoperative direct vascular manipulations or retraction. Preoperative screening for underlying vascular pathology and risk factors is also important.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71S-75S
JournalGlobal Spine Journal
Issue number1_suppl
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • anterior cervical spine
  • carotid artery injury
  • cerebrovascular accidents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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