Vertebral Artery Disorders (Atherosclerosis)

Vertebral artery disorders (Atherosclerosis)

Vertebral artery disorders, including atherosclerosis or arteriosclerotic vascular disease (AVD), are conditions characterized by a thickening of the walls of an artery traveling through the cervical vertebrae (neck bones) and branching out into the brain. Fatty plaque builds up within the artery, which then hardens and narrows the artery, obstructing the flow of oxygenated blood (vertebrobasilar insufficiency). AVD can lead to serious and even life-threatening problems such as heart attack or stroke.

The Northwell Health Neuroscience Institute approach

The Northwell Health Neuroscience Institute offers extensive experience and expertise to provide the most comprehensive diagnosis and treatments for vertebral artery disorders (atherosclerosis). Using the latest diagnostic tests and technologies, including CT angiography and 3D angiography, our doctors will offer you treatment options for the best possible outcome. 

Vertebral artery disorders (atherosclerosis) causes

There are several known risk factors for atherosclerosis disease, including vertebral artery disorders. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Advanced age

Vertebral artery disorders (Atherosclerosis) symptoms

Symptoms of a vertebral artery disorder can take years to develop and tend to occur among men in their 40s, and women in their 50s and 60s or when a more serious cardiovascular or neurological disorder occurs. Symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Visual changes
  • Sudden falls
  • Numbness or tingling in arms and legs
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty swallowing

Vertebral artery disorders (Atherosclerosis) diagnosis

If you are experiencing symptoms that may indicate a vertebral artery disorder, it’s important to discuss them with your physician. At Northwell Health, we use the latest diagnostic tests and technologies, including CT angiography and 3D angiography to confirm atherosclerosis disease.

We also work closely with the departments of Neurosurgery, Interventional Neuroradiology and Neurology to ensure an accurate diagnosis and the appropriate treatment for the best outcome.

Vertebral artery disorders (Atherosclerosis) treatment

If you’ve been diagnosed with a vertebral artery disorder, your physician will likely recommend lifestyle changes that may include:

  • Smoking cessation
  • Exercise
  • A diet low in cholesterol
  • Control of your diabetes

You may also be prescribed medication to control your cholesterol and platelet function. In some cases, surgery is an option. Surgical options include:

  • Endartectomy
  • Bypass grafting
  • Vertebral artery reconstruction
  • Angioplasty and stenting


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The Neuroscience Institute

We are dedicated to the world-class diagnosis and treatment of neurological diseases and disorders.