Vascular causes of radiculopathy: A literature review

Benoy V. Benny, Ameet S. Nagpal, Paul Singh, Matthew Smuck

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background context: Vascular etiologies are a significant source of radiculopathy. The entities that are reviewed here include epidural spinal hematoma, subdural spinal hematoma, spinal arteriovenous malformation, vertebral hemangioma, spinal epidural cavernous hemangioma, vertebral artery anomalies (both tortuosity and dissection), aortic aneurysm, hemorrhagic synovial cysts, ligamentum flavum hematoma, and venous varices. The incidence, pathophysiology, typical clinical presentation, appropriate diagnostic workup, and management are summarized. Purpose: To review and summarize various vascular causes of radiculopathy and how it impacts the management of patients with radicular spinal pain. Study design: Literature review. Methods: An extensive literature review was done on each of the vascular entities and their presentation as radiculopathy. Results: Vascular etiologies of radiculopathy may be underestimated in the literature. Imaging in addition to the history and physical examination is essential to identifying vascular sources of radiculopathy and establishing correct treatment. Conclusions: In examining patients with radicular pain, extraspinal causes of radiculopathy including vascular entities should be included in the differential. Knowledge of the incidence, pathophysiology, clinical presentation, and management of the possibly underreported various vascular causes of radiculopathy increase the ability of the physician to provide optimal care for the patient. A key aspect to identifying such vascular lesions is appropriate imaging for documenting the source of radiculopathy. Blind injections, done without appropriate imaging for identifying the cause of radiculopathy, and also performed without fluoroscopic guidance, increase not only the risk of misdiagnosis but also the comorbidities associated with spinal injections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-85
Number of pages13
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Radiculopathy
  • epidural
  • hematoma
  • spinal injection
  • vascular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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