Epidemiology and outcomes of vertebral artery injury in 16 582 cervical spine surgery patients: An aospine North America multicenter study

Wellington K. Hsu, Abhishek Kannan, Harry T. Mai, Michael G. Fehlings, Zachary A. Smith, Vincent C. Traynelis, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Alan S. Hilibrand, Ahmad Nassr, Paul M. Arnold, Thomas E. Mroz, Mohamad Bydon, Eric M. Massicotte, Wilson Z. Ray, Michael P. Steinmetz, Gabriel A. Smith, Jonathan Pace, Mark Corriveau, Sungho Lee, Robert E. IsaacsJeffrey C. Wang, Elizabeth L. Lord, Zorica Buser, K. Daniel Riew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Design: A multicenter retrospective case series was compiled involving 21 medical institutions. Inclusion criteria included patients who underwent cervical spine surgery between 2005 and 2011 and who sustained a vertebral artery injury (VAI). Objective: To report the frequency, risk factors, outcomes, and management goals of VAI in patients who have undergone cervical spine surgery. Methods: Patients were evaluated on the basis of condition-specific functional status using the Neck Disability Index (NDI), modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) score, the Nurick scale, and the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36). Results: VAIs were identified in a total of 14 of 16 582 patients screened (8.4 per 10 000). The mean age of patients with VAI was 59 years (±10) with a female predominance (78.6%). Patient diagnoses included myelopathy, radiculopathy, cervical instability, and metastatic disease. VAI was associated with substantial blood loss (770 mL), although only 3 cases required transfusion. Of the 14 cases, 7 occurred with an anterior-only approach, 3 cases with posterior-only approach, and 4 during circumferential approach. Fifty percent of cases of VAI with available preoperative imaging revealed anomalous vessel anatomy during postoperative review. Average length of hospital stay was 10 days (±8). Notably, 13 of the 14 (92.86%) cases resolved without residual deficits. Compared to preoperative baseline NDI, Nurick, mJOA, and SF-36 scores for these patients, there were no observed changes after surgery (P =.20-.94). Conclusions: Vertebral artery injuries are potentially catastrophic complications that can be sustained from anterior or posterior cervical spine approaches. The data from this study suggest that with proper steps to ensure hemostasis, patients recover function at a high rate and do not exhibit residual deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21S-27S
JournalGlobal Spine Journal
Issue number1_suppl
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • artery
  • cervical
  • complication
  • injury
  • management
  • spine
  • vertebral

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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