DESIGN AND SETTING: Experiments with models were made in a private chiropractic clinic, whereas studies of cadaveric specimens were performed in an anatomy laboratory. Doppler ultrasound and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) studies were carried out in the radiology department of a public hospital.
PATIENTS: Eight patients had their vertebral arteries examined by use of a Doppler velocimeter and MRA.
Main Outcome Measure: Stenosis of the vertebral arteries caused by stretch, localized compression, or kinking.
RESULTS: All 16 vertebral arteries from the 8 patients displayed no changes in their lumen dimensions with full cervical rotation, although curves in each of the arteries did change. The model and cadaveric vertebral arteries demonstrated localized compression or kinking of the vessel wall with atlanto-axial rotation contralaterally but revealed no evidence of major contribution of stretching to stenosis.
CONCLUSION: The lumen of vertebral arteries is usually unaffected by atlanto-axial rotation. In cases where there is stenosis, this is mainly due to localized compression or kinking. These findings are relevant to premanipulative screening of vertebral arteries with Doppler ultrasound scanning.
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