Transcranial Doppler in vertebrobasilar vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage

Jean F. Soustiel, Bella Bruk, Benjamin Shik, Moshe Hadani, Moshe Feinsod

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45 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The primary objective of this study was to assess the incidence of vertebrobasilar vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) by means of transcranial Doppler ultrasonography and to evaluate the clinical significance of this phenomenon. The secondary objective was to analyze the different factors influencing the development, the severity, and the duration of vertebrobasilar vasospasm. METHODS: Fifty-seven patients with traumatic SAH and 44 patients with spontaneous SAH were evaluated and monitored by means of transcranial Doppler ultrasonography. Vasospasm of the anterior and middle cerebral arteries was defined by mean flow velocities (FVs) exceeding 120 cm per second and at least three times the FV of the internal carotid artery. Vasospasm of the basilar and vertebral arteries was defined by a mean FV exceeding 60 cm per second. RESULTS: Vasospasm of the anterior or middle cerebral arteries was found in 27 patients and was associated with vertebrobasilar spasm in 20 patients. FVs in anterior circulation vessels were neither related to the cause of the SAH nor did they correlate with the outcome. Forty-six patients (45.5%) had FVs exceeding 60 cm per second and 25 (24.8%) had FVs exceeding 85 cm per second. In 10 of these patients, direct or computed tomographic angiography showed arterial narrowing involving the vertebrobasilar system, whereas in 21 more patients, computed tomography disclosed a cerebral infarction involving the vertebrobasilar vascular territory. Vertebral artery FVs in this group were twice that of the ipsilateral carotid artery. Vertebrobasilar vasospasm was significantly more frequent after head injury, although it was not related to the type of intracranial lesion or the Glasgow Coma Scale score at admission. It did correlate, however, with outcome (P < 0.0001) and with the intensity of SAH (P < 0.0001). Delayed neurological deterioration occurred in 14 patients and was significantly more frequent in patients with basilar artery FVs above 85 cm per second (P < 0.001). Prognosis, however, could not be reliably predicted by FVs in the basilar artery, even when an FV of 110 cm per second was chosen for prediction criterion. CONCLUSION: These results suggest that vertebrobasilar vasospasm is more common than previously thought, especially in association with head injury, with which it may significantly contribute to brain stem ischemic lesions and therefore justify specific therapeutic measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-293
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Basilar artery
  • Head injury
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Transcranial Doppler
  • Vasospasm


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