Blunt cerebrovascular injury in elderly fall patients: Are we screening enough?

Vincent P. Anto, Joshua B. Brown, Andrew B. Peitzman, Brian S. Zuckerbraun, Matthew D. Neal, Gregory Watson, Raquel Forsythe, Timothy R. Billiar, Jason L. Sperry*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Blunt cerebrovascular injuries (BCVI) are generally associated with high-energy injury mechanisms. Less is known regarding lower-energy injuries in elderly patients. We sought to determine the incidence of BCVI and characterize current BCVI screening practices and associated complications in elderly ground-level fall patients (EGLF, ≥ 65 years). We hypothesized that BCVI in EGLF patients would be clinically significant and screening would be less common. Methods: A retrospective study was performed utilizing the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB, 2007-2014) and single institutional data. BCVI risk factors and diagnosis were determined by ICD-9 codes. Presenting patient characteristics and clinical course were obtained by chart review. The NTDB dataset was used to determine the incidence of BCVI, risk factors for BCVI, and outcomes in the EGLF cohort. Local chart review focused on screening rates and complications. Results: The incidence of BCVI in EGLF patients was 0.15% overall and 0.86% in those with at least one BCVI risk factor in the NTDB. Upper cervical spine fractures were the most common risk factor for BCVI in EGLF patients. In EGLF patients, the diagnosis of BCVI was an independent risk factor for mortality (OR1.8, 95% C.I. 1.5-2.1). The local institutional data (2007-2014) had a BCVI incidence of 0.37% (n = 6487) and 1.47% in those with at least one risk factor (n = 1429). EGLF patients with a risk factor for BCVI had a very low rate of screening (44%). Only 8% of EGLF patients not screened had documented contraindications. The incidence of renal injury was 9% irrespective of BCVI screening. Conclusions: The incidence of BCVI is clinically significant in EGLF patients and an independent predictor of mortality. Screening is less common in EGLF patients despite few contraindications. This data suggests that using age and injury mechanism to omit BCVI screening in EGLF patients may exclude an at-risk population.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
JournalWorld Journal of Emergency Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 4 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Blunt cerebrovascular injury
  • Elderly
  • Falls
  • Incidence
  • Intravenous contrast
  • Screening


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