A New Type of Kink in the NeckA group of doctors in Turkey found a vertebral artery loop formation (VALF) in a patient with neck and upper arm pain. When they started looking for this problem in every patient with both neck and arm pain, they were surprised by what they found.
The vertebral artery is a main blood vessel on either side of the neck. It brings blood to the deep muscles of the neck, the spinal cord, and the cerebellum in the brain. The vertebral arteries are aligned straight up and down, but a kink or loop can form that reduces blood flow to the area. Some people with VALF don't have any symptoms at all. But some patients experience neck and arm pain and, sometimes, dizziness, numbness and tingling in the hands, or a loss of balance.
Previous studies report that two or three people out of every 100 people have VALF. The cause is unknown. It could be the result of trauma, atherosclerosis, or high blood pressure. Some people may just be born this way.
The authors of this study think the rate of VALF is much higher (about 7.5 percent) in patients with painful neck and arm symptoms. They suggest a closer look at patients with neck and arm pain or symptoms. VALF may be the hidden cause of their problems.
Three-dimensional magnetic resonance angiography (3-D MRA) is the best way to diagnose VALF. Surgery isn't always needed. Treatment with physical therapy for each VALF patient and drugs for those with hypertension show a positive outcome.
Yahya Paksoy, MD, et al. Vertebral Artery Loop Formation: A Frequent Cause of Cervicobrachial Pain. In Spine. June 1, 2003. Vol. 29. No. 11. Pp. 1183-1188.
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