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Anomalous vertebral and posterior communicating arteries as a risk factor in instrumentation of the posterior cervical spine

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We investigated the incidence of anomalies in the vertebral arteries and Circle of Willis with three-dimensional CT angiography in 55 consecutive patients who had undergone an instrumented posterior fusion of the cervical spine.

We recorded any peri-operative and post-operative complications. The frequency of congenital anomalies was 30.9%, abnormal vertebral artery blood flow was 58.2% and vertebral artery dominance 40%.

The posterior communicating artery was occluded on one side in 41.8% of patients and bilaterally in 38.2%. Variations in the vertebral arteries and Circle of Willis were not significantly related to the presence or absence of posterior communicating arteries. Importantly, 18.2% of patients showed characteristic variations in the Circle of Willis with unilateral vertebral artery stenosis or a dominant vertebral artery, indicating that injury may cause lethal complications. One patient had post-operative cerebellar symptoms due to intra-operative injury of the vertebral artery, and one underwent a different surgical procedure because of insufficient collateral circulation.

Pre-operative assessment of the vertebral arteries and Circle of Willis is essential if a posterior spinal fusion with instrumentation is to be carried out safely.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2014;96-B:535–40.

Correspondence should be sent to Dr H. Sudo; e-mail: hidekisudo@yahoo.co.jp

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