Generally, Vertebral Artery Test (VAT) is the specific examination destined to check out vertebral artery blood flow and whether it gets to the brain. The necessity of a vertebral artery test is hard to overestimate, as it helps to prevent you from multiple disturbing symptoms. And what’s more important it lowers the risk of getting a stroke or ischaemic attack.
The vertebral artery is one of the biggest neck arteries responsible for delivering blood to our brain. The proper functioning of this artery is directly responsible for your heart and brain health.
You see, if there’s some obstruction of the blood flow in the brain, you are at big risk of getting an ischemic attack and stroke. The statistics are cruel there. Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes. And even if the stroke hadn’t led to any fatal consequences, there’s a big chance of getting some unpleasant results. Most people struggle with local pains, uncontrollable heartbeat, or constant nausea.
To avoid ischemic attack or stroke, it is important to do specific examinations regularly. Especially if you feel any pain in your body. Therefore, VAT is a necessary procedure to pass. But how does this test work? And how does it affect your body? Let’s speculate a bit on that!
Structure of Vertebral Artery and the Reasons for the Test
To understand what a vertebral artery examination is, it is important to know what exactly the vertebral artery is.
The cervical spine, compared with other spines, has several essential peculiarities.
- Most of the extracranial part (arteries between the heart and the head). It is accompanied by its vegetative plexus and vertebral veins passing in a flexible narrow bone canal formed by holes in the cross outgrowths of cervical vertebrae.
- In this canal, the neurovascular bundle is closely adjacent to the vertebral bodies.
- The passage of the vertebral artery and its surrounding plexus through the holes in the transverse outgrowths of the six upper cervical vertebrae creates conditions for compression and irritation neurovascular formation.
The compression is usually caused by cervical osteochondrosis. This is usually the reason for vertebral artery syndrome occurrence.
The right VA is the first branch of the right starting artery that originates from the shoulder-head trunk, while the left is the first branch of the left subclavian artery, starting directly from the arch of the carotid artery.
Usually, the reasons for the syndrome vertebral artery can be divided into two groups:
- Vascular. Intravasal (atherosclerotic lesions, inflammatory changes of various etiologies); deformation of the arteries due to developmental abnormalities, congenital tortuosity).
- Non-vascular. Extravasal compression due to pathology from the side spine. If an artery spasm occurs as a result of direct mechanical compression of the vertebral artery and its nerve plexus.
How to Perform the Vertebral Artery Test?
Usually, there are several variations of vertebral artery test, depending on the position of the patient. The doctor may ask you to stand still, lay down on the couch or just sit there. But the main principle is to examine the state of the cervical spine during head movements to both sides.
- To perform the VAT test first of all the physician has to put 2 MHz sensors for transcranial Doppler ultrasound, fixed on the head of the patient with a special helmet, and are adjusted to the location segments of the posterior cerebral arteries. In the Doppler ultrasound, the function of two-channel monitoring is selected (preferred) or a conventional two-channel study.
- The patient has to be in a free sitting position with open eyes. Within 1–2 min, the blood flow initial speed is recorded in the posterior cerebral arteries. Next, the patient is asked to turn his head as much as possible to the left, throw it back from this position and hold it in this position for 15–20 seconds.
- So, the patient has to take a Romberg pose — stand still, feet together, arms outstretched and eyes are closed.
- Then the patient has to turn the head to the left as much as possible and throw it back from this position. Then the person has to repeat the same actions to the right.
- After that, you should throw your head back as much as possible and bring your chin to your chest as much as possible.
When performing each part of this test evaluate the subjective symptoms (headache, dizziness, nausea, strabismus, etc.) and objective (the appearance of nystagmus, ataxia, oculomotor disorders, etc).
Book an Appointment with Lone Star Neurology Specialists
Vertebral artery syndrome is the reason for various unpleasant symptoms, like headaches of a vascular nature, changes in blood pressure, and visual impairments. But the worst consequences of it are transient ischaemic attack (TIA) and a critical sign of impending stroke. Specialists of Lone Star Neurology have vast experience in dealing with a lot of neurological diseases. We are located in different cities in Texas, including Dallas, Fort Worth, Carrollton, and others. You can contact us through Instagram or Facebook. Or you may call us at this number 214-619-1910. We are available from Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. On Saturdays, we are open only for MRI.
- What is the vertebral artery test for?
The vertebral artery test is destined to show whether a person has vertebral artery insufficiency. Generally, this is the best option to examine the quality of blood flow in the vertebral artery to the brain.
- How do you test the right vertebral artery?
There are several variations of the test. But usually, a person is asked to lay down and turn their head from side to side with a slight pause between them.
- What are the symptoms of a blocked vertebral artery?
The usual symptoms of blood flow obstruction in the vertebral artery are: vertigo, diplopia, perioral numbness, vision impairments, dizziness, ataxia, bilateral sensory deficits, and syncope
- When and why should you use the vertebral artery test?
A vertebral artery test is usually performed when the person struggles with the symptoms mentioned above. Also, if you struggle with cervical osteochondrosis, which usually is the reason for compression of the artery.