Blunt Cerebrovascular Injury - AnatomyIn the setting of blunt trauma, it is easily to overlook a patient’s risk for blunt cerebrovascular injuries (BCVI). These are injuries to the carotid and vertebral arteries. Often they are asymptomatic with the initial injury, but the goal is to detect them before they develop a delayed stroke.

  • Who are at risk for these injuries?
  • What kind of imaging should I order to rule these injuries out?
  • Do I really treat these patients with antithrombotic agents even in the setting of trauma to reduce the incidence of CVA?

FYI: A simple seat-belt sign along the neck does not warrant a CT angiogram. Patients with higher risk findings such as significant pain, tenderness, swelling, and/or a bruit probably need imaging.

PV Card: Imaging for Blunt Cerebrovascular Injuries

Adapted from [1-3] Go to ALiEM (PV) Cards for more resources.


  1. Burlew C, Biffl W. Imaging for blunt carotid and vertebral artery injuries. Surg Clin North Am. 2011;91(1):217-231. [PubMed]
  2. Paulus E, Fabian T, Savage S, et al. Blunt cerebrovascular injury screening with 64-channel multidetector computed tomography: more slices finally cut it. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2014;76(2):279-83; discussion 284-5. [PubMed]
  3. Bruns B, Tesoriero R, Kufera J, et al. Blunt cerebrovascular injury screening guidelines: what are we willing to miss? J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2014;76(3):691-695. [PubMed]
Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD


Professor of Emerg Med at UCSF-Zuckerberg SF General. ALiEM Founder @aliemteam #PostitPearls at Bio:
Michelle Lin, MD