Research carried out by Professor Peter Rothwell at Oxford University suggests that vertebral artery disease, which is disease of the arteries at the back of the neck which supply blood to the back portion of the brain, is more common and has worse consequences that previously assumed.
To decide on best treatment for patients with vertebral artery disease, doctors have to determine whether the brain is able to compensate by ‘shunting’ blood around another route to the back of the brain. To date, this is determined using a x-ray technique called digital subtraction angiography. This technique involves inserting a wire into the patient’s leg and threading it through their arteries to inject a special dye into each vessel in the neck. However, this procedure is not completely safe and can even cause a stroke.
There this study aims to use a new MRI-based method which offers the prospect of providing the same information, but without any risks to the patient, and without requiring any wires to be inserted into the arteries. With this sort of information doctors can determine whether the correct amount of blood is getting to the back of the brain in patients, or whether a special operation should be performed to open up the affected vessel.