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Case report
Angioplasty and stent placement for complete occlusion of the vertebral artery secondary to giant cell arteritis


Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is the most common form of systemic vasculitis in adults. Patients usually present with headache and visual symptoms, and have an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate. It has been reported that 3–4% of patients with GCA develop ischemic events secondary to vertebral artery stenosis or occlusion. The mainstay of therapy of GCA is high dose steroid and/or methotrexate. A case is described of a patient who initially presented with intermittent double vision, mild headache and unremarkable MRI and MR angiography of the head and neck. The patient was diagnosed and treated for ocular myasthenia. The patient was readmitted 2 months later with imbalance and worsening headache, and workup suggested bilateral cerebellar infarction, complete occlusion of the left vertebral artery and a high grade stenosis of the right vertebral artery. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C reactive protein were elevated. Temporal artery biopsy demonstrated changes consistent with GCA. During the course of the treatment with corticosteroids and immunosuppressant, the patient developed dysarthria, left facial droop and left hemiplegia, and was found to have complete occlusion of both vertebral arteries. The patient was emergently taken for revascularization of the occluded segment using angioplasty and stent placement. The patient had significant improvement of neurological symptoms within 3 days after the procedure and continued to improve during hospitalization. Endovascular treatment of vasculitis affecting the intracranial vessels is not yet established. Our experience with successful treatment of complete occlusion of the vertebral artery secondary to GCA using endovascular intracranial angioplasty and stent placement is reported.

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