BACKGROUND: For many years, dissecting aneurysms of the intracranial vertebral artery were believed to be quite rare. In recent years, because vascular disorders have been studied more thoroughly by three dimensional- computed tomography (3D-CT), angiographically and pathologically, these aneurysms are being reported with more frequency. METHODS: Among the 45 patients diagnosed to have aneurysms arising from the vertebral artery or its branches over a 20-year period, 16 had dissecting aneurysms. The authors present their therapeutic strategy for these patients. Surgery was performed in the 16 patients, the most common technique being clip-occlusion or trapping of the parent artery wherever feasible, in an attempt to optimize cerebral blood flow. The dissecting aneurysms of the vertebral artery were classified into two groups for the purpose of determining a therapeutic approach, namely unilateral and circumferential groups. In the unilateral group, the dissection seemed to involve only on one side of the vessel according to the conventional cerebral angiogram. These patients underwent surgical reconstruction of the vertebral artery by direct clipping. In the circumferential group, the dissection was all around the artery. Proximal clipping or trapping was performed in this group. RESULTS: In six out of eight patients with unilateral dissecting aneurysms, vascular reconstruction was possible by direct clipping. Of these six patients, the surgical outcome was considered excellent in four, fair in one, and one patient died of cardiac failure after 12 days as his preoperative morbid condition remained the same after surgery. Two other patients with unilateral dissecting aneurysms were treated with trapping technique and the surgical outcome was excellent in one patient and good in the other patient. Both patients resumed a normal social life. In five out of eight patients with circumferential dissecting aneurysms, trapping or proximal clipping was performed and the surgical outcome was excellent in two patients, good in one and fair in one patient. One patient with preoperative brain stem infarction died of aspiration pneumonitis after 8 months. Two patients who were noted to have an increase in the size of aneurysm during follow-up angiography underwent a craniotomy with clipping and wrapping of the aneurysm. There was a favorable surgical outcome in both patients. The remaining three patients had Grade IV subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) prior to surgery and at autopsy a disturbed vascular wall was detected. CONCLUSION: The authors experience suggests that when surgically feasible, direct clipping is an effective alternative approach in the treatment of dissecting aneurysms of the vertebral artery in which blood flow in the parent artery is to be preserved.
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