The vertebral arteries are blood vessels located on each side of your neck that supply blood and oxygen to your brain. A vertebral artery dissection occurs when there is a tear or slit in the artery and it allows blood to leak out of the vessel. After the blood oozes out it starts to form a blood clot or hematoma. If the blood continues to leak into the neck, the blood clot can continue to increase in size and eventually compresses the artery. If the artery is compressed, it can cause an interruption in the blood supply to the brain and may lead to a stroke or permanent neurologic damage. 
 
Damage to the vertebral artery can be caused by any blunt force trauma to the neck.  Blunt force trauma can be caused by being hit with a sports ball, a seatbelt injury, amusement park rides that jolt the neck or neck manipulation performed by a chiropractor. 
 
Some common symptoms of a vertebral artery dissection include the following:

  • Headache
  • Neck Pain
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Visual Field Defects
  • Weakness on one side of the face

Patients who present to a doctor or hospital with these symptoms who have also had a recent history of blunt force trauma to the neck should be fully worked up for a vertebral artery dissection. With prompt diagnosis and treatment a dissection can be treated with blood thinners or surgery before it causes a stroke or permanent neurologic brain damage.

If you or your child developed a vertebral artery dissection that went undiagnosed or untreated and it caused a stroke or brain damage, you may wish to contact an experienced brain injury attorney or medical malpractice law firm for a free consultation.