Clinical Neuroradiology

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 327–333 | Cite as

Origin and Course of the Extracranial Vertebral Artery: CTA Findings and Embryologic Considerations

  • D. MeilaEmail author
  • M. Tysiac
  • M. Petersen
  • O. Theisen
  • A. Wetter
  • A. Mangold
  • M. Schlunz-Hendann
  • K. Papke
  • F. Brassel
  • A. Berenstein
Original Article



The aim of this study was to show the different origins and courses of the extracranial VA on CTA with special emphasis on embryological considerations. The duplicated VA is an anomaly that has been assumed to predispose for dissection and to be associated with aneurysms. We report its frequency and clinical significance.


We retrospectively reviewed CTA of 539 patients by using a contrast-enhanced CTA protocol of the VA on CT.


Ninety-four-point-two percent of left VA originated from left subclavian artery and entered the transverse foramen at C6 in nearly all cases. Six-point-three-percent of left VA (m  = 4 %, f  = 10 %) originated from the aortic arch and entered the transverse foramen either at C4, C5 or C7 but never at C6. One case of an aberrant retroesophageal right VA originated from the aortic arch distal to the left subclavian artery and entered at C7 (0.19 %). All other right VA originated from the right subclavian artery (99.8 %) and entered between C4 and C6. We diagnosed four cases of duplicated VA (0.74 %) with a female predominance (1.9 %) without any signs of dissection on CTA. Two cases with VA duplication had intracranial arterial aneurysms.


The VA is a longitudinal anastomosis of segmental metameric arteries. The level of entrance into the transverse foramen indicates which metameric artery or arteries persist. Duplication corresponds to persistence of two segmental arteries and is a rare phenomenon. VA duplication might be associated with vascular lesions.


Anatomy CTA Embryology Vertebral artery 


Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that there is no potential conflict of interest in relation to this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Meila
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • M. Tysiac
    • 2
  • M. Petersen
    • 1
  • O. Theisen
    • 1
  • A. Wetter
    • 3
  • A. Mangold
    • 1
  • M. Schlunz-Hendann
    • 1
  • K. Papke
    • 4
  • F. Brassel
    • 1
  • A. Berenstein
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Radiology and NeuroradiologyKlinikum Duisburg—Sana KlinikenDuisburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of AnaesthesiologyKlinikum Duisburg—Sana KlinikenDuisburgGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology and NeuroradiologyUniversity EssenEssenGermany
  4. 4.Department of RadiologySt. Bonifatius-Hospital LingenLingenGermany
  5. 5.Center for Endovascular Surgery, Hyman Newman Institute for Neurology and NeurosurgeryRoosevelt HospitalNew YorkUSA
  6. 6.Department of Diagnostic and Interventional NeuroradiologyHannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany

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