Subaxial Vertebral Artery Rotational Occlusion Syndrome: An Overview of Clinical Aspects, Diagnostic Work-Up, and Surgical Management

Sabino Luzzi, Cristian Gragnaniello, Stefano Marasco, Alice Giotta Lucifero, Mattia Del Maestro, Giuseppe Bellantoni, Renato Galzio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Extrinsic compression of the subaxial vertebral artery (VA) may cause rotational occlusion syndrome (ROS) and contribute to vertebrobasilar insufficiency potentially leading to symptoms and in severe cases, to posterior circulation strokes. The present literature review aimed to report the main clinical findings, diagnostic work-up, and surgical management of the subaxial VA-ROS, the diagnosis of which can be difficult and is often underestimated. An illustrative case is also presented. A thorough literature search was conducted to retrieve manuscripts that have discussed the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of ROS. Total 41 articles were selected based on the best match and relevance and mainly involved case reports and small cases series. The male/female ratio and average age were 2.6 and 55.6±11 years, respectively. Dizziness, visual disturbances, and syncope were the most frequent symptoms in order of frequency, while C5 and C6 were the most affected levels. Osteophytes were the cause in >46.2% of cases. Dynamic VA catheterbased angiography was the gold standard for diagnosis along with computed tomography angiography. Except in older patients and those with prohibitive comorbidities, anterior decompressive surgery was always performed, mostly with complete recovery, and zero morbidity and mortality. A careful neurological evaluation and dynamic angiographic studies are crucial for the diagnosis of subaxial VA-ROS. Anterior decompression of the VA is the cure of this syndrome in almost all cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)392-407
Number of pages16
JournalAsian Spine Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebral angiography
  • Posterior circulation
  • Spondylosis
  • Stroke
  • Vertebral artery
  • Vertebrobasilar insufficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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