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What is Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders & How is it Treated?| Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis of Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders

What Are Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders?

Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders are referred to as a group of disorders that cause disrupted supply of blood to the back portion of the brain. They are also known by the name of vertebrobasilar insufficiency and the most common presenting feature of this condition is problems with speech and dizziness. When blood supply to a certain area of the body is disrupted or completely stopped then that area is said to have suffered an ischemia. When this happens in the brain it results in significant damage to the brain cells causing a variety of complications.[1]

The basilar artery is formed after two cerebral arteries join together. It is the basilar artery that supplies blood to the back half of the brain. The back portion of the brain is where the most important functions of the body are controlled. These include breathing, pulse, vision, swallowing, balance, and movement. If the blood supply to this area gets disrupted these functions take a hit.[1]

There are various risk factors that may interrupt the flow of blood to the brain to include hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, and nicotine abuse. In some cases a torn artery wall or a blood clot that travels to the vertebrobasilar artery can all lead to disrupted blood flow to the back of the brain causing Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders.[1]

What Are Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders?

What Causes Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders?

Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders can be caused due to a variety of reasons. Among the various causes, narrowing of the blood vessels, a blocked vessel, and a blood clot are the most common. Narrowing of a blood vessel is medically referred to as atherosclerosis. This occurs when there is a build of fatty substance called plaque within the arteries. These plaques are made up of cholesterol and calcium and cause hardening of the arteries.[2]

The buildup of plaque and hardening of the arteries is a gradual process and takes years if the risk factors causing them like smoking and not adhering to good eating habits are not controlled. These plaques can sometimes break away from their original position and travel to through the blood to the vertebrobasilar artery and block it causing Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders.[2]

What are the Symptoms of Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders?

The presenting features of Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders are quite similar to that of a stroke. These symptoms indicate a medical emergency and the individual having them should immediately go to the nearest emergency room for prompt treatment. The symptoms of Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders include problems with speech and sudden onset of weakness in the extremities. The individual will also have problems with swallowing food.[2]

Maintaining balance will also be problematic for the affected individual. In some cases, people with Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders will also have problems with their vision and complain of diplopia. Dizziness with numbness and tingling of the extremities is also quite common in people with Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders.[2]

The affected individual will have periods of alteration of mental awareness and confusion. These symptoms may last for a brief period of time or in some cases may be persistent. In some cases, it has also been seen that a blocked or narrowed blood vessel does not cause any symptoms.[2]

What Are The Complications Of Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders?

As stated, disrupted blood flow to the brain may lead to a variety of complications, some of which may be potentially serious. These complications include:

Stroke: If the brain does not receive enough supply of oxygen then the cells start to necrose. This is what results in an individual having a stroke. A stroke can have several physical and neurological consequences. It can leave an individual with paralysis of one side of the body or both. There may also be slurring of the speech and difficulty carrying out daily chores at home.[2]

Transient Ischemic Attack: This occurs when a clot blocks a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain gets blocked. If this occurs momentarily and then the clot dislodges restoring normal blood flow than the symptoms of a Transient Ischemic Attack can be observed.[2]

There is no permanent damage caused by a TIA but the affected individual may have sudden onset weakness, numbness, balance problems, and a severe headache. These symptoms will be momentary and will resolve within a few minutes.[2]

Cerebral Aneurysm: This is yet another complication that arises due to interrupted blood flow to the brain. Due to lack of adequate oxygen and nutrition, the brain cells become weak and start to swell. This is what is termed as a cerebral aneurysm. If an aneurysm is not treated and it ruptures then it may lead to serious consequences like bleeding in the brain that can cause severe damage to the brain cells.[2]

How is Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders Diagnosed?

The best way to diagnose Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders is by way of radiological studies like an MRI or a CT scan of the brain. These tests will clearly show the status of the arteries and blood vessels within the brain. In case if there is a blockage it can be easily seen on MRI or CT scans. This will be done after a detailed history is taken from the patient along with details of the symptoms experienced.[2]

Other than MRI and CT scans, the physician may also do an ultrasound to look for any abnormalities in the arteries like a clot or a blockage that may be causing the symptoms as seen in Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders. At times, physicians also do an x-ray but this radiograph will not show any blockage or clots that cause Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders. Based on the results of these radiological studies and the history of the patient a confirmative diagnosis of Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders is made.[2]

How is Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders Treated?

The treatment for Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders depends on what the actual cause of the condition is. If a blocked artery is responsible for the interrupted blood flow then there are a variety of medications available which can clear the block and restore normal blood flow. In case if there is complete blockage of the artery, then surgery is the most preferred route taken by physicians to treat Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders.[2]

However, the effectiveness of surgery in the treatment of Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders has been questionable and studies have shown mixed results with regard to compete relief from the symptoms of this condition. With regard to medications, the focus is basically to treat the narrowing of the artery by removing the plaques and reduce the risk of a potential stroke. The medications that will be prescribed include blood thinner for prevention of blood clots.[2]

Medications will also be given to reduce bad cholesterol from the body. Hypertension which is a primary risk factor for Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders will have to be managed by medications.[2]

In conclusion, it can be assessed from above that people who have Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders tend to be at a greater risk for having a stroke later on in the future. This risk increases multifold if the individual has a prior history of a TIA. Thus it is vital for an individual to have a clear understanding of the risk factors for Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders and make necessary lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and staying away from fatty foods or preservatives.[2]

This will help in controlling the cholesterol levels, manage blood pressure, and overall reduce the risk of blockage or narrowing of blood vessels which is the primary cause for Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders. It is also quite essential for a high risk individual to have an understanding of the symptoms of a stroke so that early treatment can be given and further complications that arise from Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders may be avoided.[2]

Some of the symptoms that an individual who is having a stroke will include dizziness along with numbness and tingling of the extremities. There will also be sudden onset weakness of the limbs. The affected individual will have problems with speech and swallowing. His or her balance will also be out of control.[2]

It should be mentioned here that Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders usually affect people above the age of 50. Hence, it is extremely important for people of this age group to be extremely cautious about what their daily food habits are. These individuals should also lead an active lifestyle with regular walking for at least half an hour daily and be physically active. This will keep the bad cholesterol away and prevent any narrowing of the arteries which may cause Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders.[2]


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 14, 2019

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