Transcranial doppler detection of vertebrobasilar vasospasm following subarachnoid hemorrhage

Michael A. Sloan, Christina M. Burch, Marcella A. Wozniak, Michael I. Rothman, Daniele Rigamonti, Thomas Permutt, Yuji Numaguchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose Transcranial Doppler sonography is of established value in the detection and monitoring of middle cerebral artery vasospasm. Little information exists on the utility of transcranial Doppler for detection of posterior circulation vasospasm. Methods Cerebral angiography and conventional handheld transcranial Doppler sonography were compared to determine sensitivity and specificity of transcranial Doppler for detection of vertebral and basilar artery vasospasm. Results Of 59 consecutive subarachnoid hemorrhage patients with transcranial Doppler angiogram correlations, 42 underwent posterior circulation angiography to evaluate 64 vertebral arteries and 42 basilar arteries during the period of risk for vasospasm and had technically adequate transcranial Doppler examinations within 24 hours of the angiogram. A mean flow velocity of 60cm/s and above was indicative of both vertebral and basilar artery vasospasm. For the vertebral artery, there were 7 true-positive test results, 42 true-negatives, 6 false-positive s (unknown cause in 3, increased collateral flow in 1, adjacent vessel vasospasm in 1, hyperperfusion in 1), and 9 false-negatives (anatomic in 7, operator error in 2). Sensitivity was 44% and specificity was 87.5%. For the basilar artery, there were 10 true-positives, 23 true-negatives, 6 falsepositives (unknown cause in 4, hyperemia/hyperperfusion in 1, increased collateral flow in 1), and 3 false-negatives (operator error in 2, tortuous vessel course in 1). Sensitivity was 76.9% and specificity was 79.3%. When the diagnostic criterion was changed to ≥80 cm/s (vertebral artery) and ≥95 cm/s (basilar artery), all false-positive results were eliminated (specificity and positive predictive value, 100%). Conclusions Our data suggest that transcranial Doppler has good specificity for the detection of vertebral artery vasospasm and good sensitivity and specificity for the detection of basilar artery vasospasm. Transcranial Doppler is highly specific (100%) for vertebra] and basilar artery vasospasm when flow velocities are ≥80 and ≥95 cm/s, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2187-2197
Number of pages11
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Ultrasonics
  • Vasospasm
  • Vertebrobasilar circulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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