Previous studies of patients with bilateral intracranial vertebral artery (ICVA) disease were selective and retrospective.
We studied risk factors, vascular lesions, symptoms, signs, and outcomes in patients with bilateral ICVA disease among 430 patients in the New England Medical Center Posterior Circulation Registry.
Forty-two patients had bilateral ICVA occlusive disease (18 had bilateral stenosis; 16, unilateral occlusion and contralateral stenosis; and 8, bilateral occlusion). The most common risk factors were hypertension (32/42 [76%]) and hyperlipidemia (22/42 [52%]). Sixteen patients (38%) had transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) only; 18 (43%), TIAs before stroke. Occlusive vascular disease also involved the basilar artery in 29 patients (69%), the extracranial vertebral arteries in 18 (43%), and the internal carotid arteries in 11 (26%). Only 6 patients had no other major vascular lesion. Cerebellar symptoms were common. Among 30 patients with infarction, 21 (70%) had proximal intracranial territory involvement, and 15 (50%) had distal territory involvement. The location of occlusive lesions in relation to posterior inferior cerebellar artery origins did not significantly influence prognosis. During follow-up, 31 patients had no symptoms or slight disability, 2 had progression, and 7 died. Among 7 patients with poor outcome, 6 also had basilar artery stenosis or occlusion and 5 had proximal and distal intracranial territory infarcts.
Most patients with bilateral ICVA occlusive disease have hypertension, other major occlusive lesions, and TIAs before stroke. Short- and long-term outcomes are usually favorable, but patients with bilateral ICVA and basilar artery–occlusive lesions often have poor outcomes.