Three main blood vessels provide blood flow to the back of the brain:
One basilar artery
Two vertebral arteries
This part of the brain contains structures that are crucial for keeping a person alive, such as breathing, heart rate, swallowing, vision, movement, and posture or balance.
Many different conditions may cause blood flow in the back part of the brain to be reduced or stopped. The most common are smoking, highblood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels. These are similar to the risk factors for any stroke.
Vertebrobasilar vascular disorders may also be caused by a tear (dissection) in an artery wall.
Other less common causes of vertebrobasilar vascular disorders include connective tissue diseases and vasculitis.
Most common symptoms may include:
Difficulty saying words
Double vision or vision loss
Numbness or tingling most often on the face or scalp
Sudden falls (drop attacks)
Vertigo (sensation of things spinning around)
Other symptoms that may occur include:
Bladder or bowel control problems
Difficulty walking (unsteady gait)
Nausea and vomiting
Pain in one or more parts of the body, which gets worse with touch and cold temperatures
Blood-thinning medications to lower your risk of stroke, such as aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin) or clopidogrel (Plavix)
Diet changes and medication to lower cholesterol and control blood pressure
The outlook depends on:
The type of stroke
The amount of brain damage
What body functions have been affected
How quickly you get treatment
How quickly you recover
Each person has a different recovery time and need forlong-term care. Problems with moving, thinking, and talking often improve in the first weeks or months after a stroke. Some people will keep improving months or years after a stroke.
Complications of vertebrobasilar circulatory disorders are stroke and its complications. The complications of stroke include:
Respiratory (breathing) failure (which may require use of a machine to help the patient breathe)
Lung problems (especially lung infections)
Dehydration and swallowing problems (sometimes leading to the placement of tubes in the stomach for artificial feeding)
Problems with movement or sensation, including paralysis and numbness
Formation of clots in the legs
Patients may have vision loss in one eye.
Complications caused by medications or surgery may also occur.
Calling your health care provider
Call 911 or your local emergency number, or get to the emergency room if you have any symptoms that may suggest a vertebrobasilar circulatory disorder.
Furie KL, Kasner SE, Adams RJ, et al. Guidelines for the prevention of stroke in patients with stroke or transient ischemic attack: a guideline for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2011;42:227-276.
Goldstein LB, Bushnell CD, Adams RJ, et al. Guidelines for the primary prevention of stroke: a guideline for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2011;42:517-584.
Adams RJ, Albers G, Alberts MJ, Benavente O, Furie K, Goldstein LB, et al. Update to the AHA/ASA recommendations for the prevention of stroke in patients with stroke and transient ischemic attack. Stroke. 2008 May;39(5):1647-52. Epub 2008 Mar 5.
Biller J, Love BB, Schneck MJ. Vascular Diseases of the Nervous System. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann; 2008:chap 55.
Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.