The natural history of indeterminate blunt cerebrovascular injury

Jeffrey D. Crawford, Kevin M. Allan, Karishma U. Patel, Kyle D. Hart, Martin A. Schreiber, Amir F. Azarbal, Timothy K. Liem, Erica L. Mitchell, Gregory L. Moneta, Gregory J. Landry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


IMPORTANCE The Denver criteria grade blunt cerebrovascular injuries (BCVIs) but fail to capture many patients with indeterminate findings on initial imaging. OBJECTIVE To evaluate outcomes and clinical significance of indeterminate BCVIs (iBCVIs). DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS A retrospective review of all patients treated for BCVIs at our institution from January 1, 2007, through July 31, 2014, was completed. Patients were divided into 2 groups: those with true BCVIs as defined by the Denver criteria and those with iBCVIs, which was any initial imaging suggestive of a cerebrovascular arterial injury not classifiable by the Denver criteria. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Primary outcomeswere rate of resolution of iBCVIs, freedom from cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or transient ischemic attack (TIA), and 30-day mortality. RESULTS We identified 100 patients with 138 BCVIs: 79 with true BCVIs and 59 with iBCVIs. With serial imaging, 23 iBCVIs (39.0%) resolved and 21 (35.6%) remained indeterminate, whereas 15 (25.4%) progressed to true BCVI. The rate of CVA or TIA in the iBCVI group was 5.1% compared with 15.2%in the true BCVI group (P = .06). Of the 15 total CVAs or TIAs, 11 (73.3%) resulted from carotid injury and 4 (26.7%) from vertebral artery occlusion (P = .03). By Kaplan-Meier analysis, there was no difference in freedom from CVA or TIA for the 2 groups (P = .07). Median clinical follow-up was 91 days. Overall and 30-day mortality for the entire series were 17.4%and 15.2%, respectively. There was no difference in long-term or 30-day mortality between true BCVI and iBCVI groups. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Detection of iBCVI has become a common clinical conundrum with improved and routine imaging. Indeterminate BCVI is not completely benign, with 25.4%demonstrating anatomical progression to true BCVI and 5.1% developing cerebrovascular symptoms.We therefore recommend serial imaging and antiplatelet therapy for iBCVI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)841-847
Number of pages7
JournalJAMA Surgery
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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