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Vertebral Artery Loop Formation: A Frequent Cause of Cervicobrachial Pain

Paksoy, Yahya, MD*; Levendoglu, Funda Dinç, MD; Ögün, Cemile Öztin, MD; Üstün, Mehmet Erkan, MD§; Ögün, Tunç Cevat, MD

doi: 10.1097/01.BRS.0000067275.08517.58

Study Design. Patients with cervicobrachial pain were examined in detail with special attention to vertebral artery loop formation.

Objectives. To determine the incidence, short-time natural course and response to a conservative approach to vertebral artery loop formation in a group of patients with cervicobrachial pain.

Summary of the Background Data. Vertebral artery loop formation is reported to be a rare cause of cervicobrachial neuralgia, discovered incidentally during the search for its cause. It can be congenital or acquired, occurring equally in both sexes. Surgical decompression has been the preferred method in the majority of reported cases, with favorable results.

Methods. One hundred seventy-three patients with cervicobrachial pain were examined in a period of 7 months using physical examination, radiography, and magnetic resonance imaging with or without angiography.

Results. Thirteen patients with a mean age of 43.9 ± 13.5 years were diagnosed with vertebral artery loop formation. The most common level was C6–C7. Four patients presented with loop formation at two levels. None of the patients had symptoms attributable to intervertebral disc pathology. The complaints were in accordance with the level of the vascular pathology. Complete relief or decrease in pain was observed in all patients with the conservative approach.

Conclusions. In patients with cervicobrachialgic symptoms and without established discopathy, during the examination of sagittal magnetic resonance images, vertebral artery loop formation should be kept in mind, and in suspected cases, the vertebral artery should be visualized using three-dimensional time of flight magnetic resonance angiography. Vertebral artery-nerve root relation should also be demonstrated using the multiplanar reformatting method from time of flight images. A conservative course of treatment has a favorable outcome.

From the *Ultra Imaging Center,

†Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation,

‡Department of Anesthesiology and Reanimation,

§Department of Neurosurgery, and

∥Department of Orthopedics and Traumatology, Division of Hand—Upper Extremity—Microsurgery, Selçuk University Medical School, Konya, Turkey.

Acknowledgement date: August 8, 2002.

First revision date: October 17, 2002.

Acceptance date: October 21, 2002.

The devices or drugs discussed in this manuscript are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration or a corresponding national agency for this indication. No funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

Address correspondence to Tunç Cevat Ögün, Selçuk Üniversitesi Meram Tip Fakültesi Ortopedi ve Travmatoloji Klinigi, 42080-Akyokus-Konya-TURKEY; E-mail:

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.