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Traumatic vertebral artery dissection presenting with incomplete congruous homonymous quadrantanopia
© Matti et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2010
Received: 15 November 2009
Accepted: 19 May 2010
Published: 19 May 2010
To describe a rare presentation of vertebral artery dissection (VAD) as a small but congruous incomplete homonymous hemianopia demonstrating use of visual field testing in the diagnosis.
A 30 year old woman had been unwell for 4 months with difficulty focusing, vertigo, dizziness and a feeling of falling to the right. A small but congruous right inferior homonymous quadrantanopia was found on examination leading to further investigation that uncovered a vertebral artery dissection and multiple posterior circulation infarctions including a left occipital stroke matching the field defect.
We describe an atypical case of VAD presenting with a small congruous quadrantanopia. This is a rare but significant condition that predisposes to multiple thromboembolic infarction that may be easily misdiagnosed and a high index of suspicion is required to make the diagnosis.
Vertebral arterial dissection (VAD) may occur after neck trauma [1, 2], and along with carotid artery dissections may account for 25-30% of ischaemic strokes in patients <50 years . Diagnosis can be difficult due to its rarity and varied symptoms. Described here-in a case of VAD resulting in multiple cerebral infarctions. The diagnosis was made after finding a small congruous homonymous quadrantanopia.
A 30 year old woman became unwell after swimming with crocodiles while suspended under water in a protective cage in the Australian Northern Territory. She was vertiginous after coming out of the water and required admission to a tertiary hospital emergency department and was discharged with a diagnosis of vestibular neuronitis.
Vertebral artery dissection (VAD) is a potentially fatal condition where disruption of the vessel wall results in thromboembolism and subsequent ischemic stroke. It may occur following neck injury resulting in neck extension, flexion or rotation [1–3]. Symptoms include neck or head pain, partial Horner's syndrome and those of ischemic stroke in its involved territory . The presentation may vary from case to case. The patient likely sustained the VAD following minor neck torsion injury during swimming, followed by a shower of emboli causing multiple posterior circulation infarcts. The congruous nature of the quadrantanopia pointed to an occipital lobe infarct.
This case demonstrates the importance of ancillary imaging in making the diagnosis. CT angiography provides accurate imaging of the vessel lumen and dissection length. It can identify VAD in both large and medium vessel dissections in the neck . T1-weighted MRI is an alternative but may not detect initial stages of intramural haemorrhage seen in early VAD. It is for this reason that, recent studies suggest that CTA is the preferred imaging modality to identify cervical dissections, especially for VAD .
Management of VAD to prevent further embolic stroke is done on a case by case basis. There is no data to support the therapeutic superiority of anticoagulants over antiplatelet agents. In this case the patient had no contraindications to anticoagulants including intracranial arterial dissection, large stroke, enlarging intramural haematoma and/or high risk of bleeding. The presence of multiple cerebral emboli with no contra-indication favoured the use of anticoagulants in this case.
In conclusion, we describe an atypical case of VAD presenting with a small congruous quadrantanopia. This is a rare but significant condition that may be easily misdiagnosed and a high index of suspicion is required to make the diagnosis.
Written informed consent was obtained from the patient for publication of this case report.
There were no funding sponsorship associated with this manuscript. Drs. CSC and AWL are supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council National Institute of Clinical Studies Fellowship.
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