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Vertebrobasilar TIAs - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Preventions

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Vertebrobasilar TIAs are the reduced blood circulation in the posterior brain, affecting body balance and movement. Read the article to know more.

Written by

Dr. Osheen Kour

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Abhishek Juneja

Published At March 14, 2023
Reviewed AtDecember 29, 2023

Introduction

Vertebrobasilar TIA (transient ischemic attack) is mainly caused due to vertebrobasilar insufficiency that occurs due to the stopped or reduced blood flow to the posterior part of the brain. The condition can affect a person's body movement and balance and may also increase the risk of heart stroke. Vertebrobasilar TIA is often referred to as vertebrobasilar insufficiency and can cause minor health issues. The disease can, however, cause a high risk of transient ischemic attack or stroke in a person.

Healthcare providers usually manage the condition by suggesting various lifestyle changes and prescribing medications. But a person may need surgery for vertebrobasilar TIA if other medical interventions are less effective.

What Are the Causes of Vertebrobasilar TIA?

Vertebrobasilar TIA is caused due to vertebrobasilar insufficiency occurring due to atherosclerosis or hardening of the blood arteries. In addition, the condition is caused due to calcium and cholesterol buildup in the arteries. This further leads to the narrowing of the arteries and reduces blood flow. In addition, there are various other causes of vertebrobasilar TIA, such as vertebral artery dissection, pulmonary embolism, drug addiction, blood disorders, penetrating artery diseases, and fibromuscular dysplasia.

What Are the Symptoms of Vertebrobasilar TIA?

The symptoms of vertebrobasilar TIA are as follows:

  • Tingling sensation or numbness in feet and hands.

  • Double vision.

  • Vertigo.

  • Slurred speech.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Difficulty in swallowing.

  • Dizziness and confusion.

  • Loss of coordination.

  • Headaches.

  • Severe weakness in the body.

What Are the Risk Factors for Vertebrobasilar TIA?

The risk factors for vertebrobasilar TIA are as follows:

  • Diabetes.

  • Smoking.

  • Family medical history.

  • Hypertension or high blood pressure.

  • Obesity.

  • Hyperlipidemia.

  • Age more than 50 years.

How Is Vertebrobasilar TIA Diagnosed?

The doctor diagnoses the vertebrobasilar TIA by physical examination of the patient and various diagnostic tests, including:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography) scans of the brain.

  • Blood tests that include blood clotting factors.

  • Echocardiogram (ECG).

  • X-rays of the arteries and angiocardiogram.

  • Ultrasounds, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), and computed tomography angiography (CTA).

  • Holter monitoring or constant 24-hour ECG monitoring.

How Is Vertebrobasilar TIA Treated?

Vertebrobasilar TIA can be treated by switching to healthy lifestyle options, various medications, and surgery. Lifestyle changes may include:

  • Quitting smoking.

  • Regular exercising.

  • Proper management and control of diabetes.

  • Avoiding alcohol.

  • Consuming low-cholesterol foods.

The doctors usually prescribe aspirin to people suffering from vertebrobasilar TIA’s to help them control platelet function and cholesterol levels. If lifestyle changes and medications are ineffective in treating the vertebrobasilar TIA condition, the doctor advises surgical treatment to a patient. These include

  • Angioplasty - A small balloon is inserted in the patient’s artery to open it up.

  • Bypass Grafting - The blood vessel is taken from another part of the patient’s body and is used to replace the damaged vessel.

  • Stenting or Coronary Angioplasty- A wire-mesh tube is inserted in the patient's artery to maintain open space for blood to flow freely.

  • Vertebral Artery Reconstruction - This method helps to repair any damage caused by vertebrobasilar TIA.

  • Carotid Endarterectomy - This surgical treatment removes plaque from the affected arteries.

What Are the Complications Associated With Vertebrobasilar TIA?

Vertebrobasilar TIA can affect the quality of a person's life if it is not diagnosed and treated on time. The condition can cause permanent brain damage and limited body functions due to the lack of treatment and may also need long-term care. The complications associated with vertebrobasilar TIA include

  • Dehydration or lack of enough fluids in the body.

  • Loss of vision.

  • Respiratory failure can also occur; a person may need oxygen support to breathe.

  • Lung infections and various other lung problems.

  • Myocardial infarction or heart attack.

  • Blood clots are formed in the legs of the person.

  • A person may need tube feeding due to swallowing difficulties.

  • Numbness and paralysis cause a lack of bodily sensations and movement.

What Are the Differential Diagnosis for Vertebrobasilar TIA?

  • Multiple sclerosis.

  • Benign positional vertigo.

  • Transient ischemic attack.

  • Vasculitis.

  • Posterior fossa tumor.

  • Vertebral artery dissection.

  • Stroke ischemic.

  • Vestibular neuronitis.

  • Stroke hemorrhage.

  • Labyrinthitis.

  • Subclavian steal syndrome (SSS).

How Is Vertebrobasilar TIA Prevented?

Vertebrobasilar TIA can be prevented in the following ways:

  • Diabetes can be a risk factor for people suffering from vertebrobasilar TIA. Therefore, it should be managed efficiently with proper medication and lifestyle changes.

  • Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels are important factors that can help prevent vertebrobasilar TIA. This can be achieved by regular physical exercises such as aerobics.

  • Alcohol can cause a rise in blood pressure and thus increase a person's heart stroke risk. Therefore, it should also be avoided by a person or consumed in moderation.

  • A person with high blood pressure should consult the doctor and take medication regularly. Abnormal blood pressure levels increase the risk of stroke in a person.

  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet also reduces the risk of heart strokes. A person should include vegetables in their diet. Also, eating less trans fat, food low in cholesterol and fat, and high in fiber can help control blood pressure levels.

  • Smoking is also a risk factor that can cause vertebrobasilar TIA or heart strokes. Thus it should be avoided by people.

  • Obesity and being overweight also increase the risk of stroke. Therefore, a person should maintain a moderate body weight.

Conclusion

Vertebrobasilar insufficiency can cause 20 % of all transient ischemic attacks or strokes in a person. Vertebrobasilar TIA occurs with a wide range of clinical symptoms and is often confused with carotid circulation stroke. It is challenging for doctors to diagnose this condition, which can cause morbidity and mortality in stroke patients. This can be avoided or minimized by analyzing the vertebrobasilar TIA’s on time and effectively treating patients. The doctor can manage the condition by advising lifestyle changes and prescribing medication to a person; severe cases can also be treated with surgical methods. However, the prognosis of the condition mainly depends upon the amount of brain ischemia, age, baseline function, and the treatment provided to the patient.

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Dr. Abhishek Juneja
Dr. Abhishek Juneja

Neurology

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