Focal compression of the upper left thoracic intersegmental arteries as a potential cause of spinal cord ischemia

Philippe Gailloud, A. Ponti, L. Gregg, C. A. Pardo, J. H.D. Fasel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: This study was prompted by recurrent angiographic observations of focal stenoses involving the proximal segment of the left upper thoracic intersegmental arteries, a few centimeters distal to their origin. The purpose was to investigate the nature and prevalence of this anomaly. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The existence of non-ostial thoracic intersegmental artery stenoses was evaluated in 50 angiograms; the contribution of stenosed branches to the anterior spinal artery was recorded. Angiograms performed in 3 patients with right-sided aortas were also reviewed. The topographic relationships of the upper thoracic intersegmental artery with surrounding structures were investigated in 3 cadavers. RESULTS: Thirty-seven non-ostial stenoses were found in 26 patients (52%), predominantly on the left side (92%), between T3 and T8, most frequently at T4 and T5 (54%). Severe lesions were observed in 10% of cases. Patients with stenoses had fewer detectable anterior radiculomedullary arteries between T3 and T5 (35% versus 54%). Upper intersegmental artery stenoses, documented on the left side of all 3 specimens, appeared to be caused by the recurrent path of these intersegmental arteries related to the leftward position of the thoracic aorta, and by their course around reinforced paramedian longitudinal strands of the endothoracic fascia. CONCLUSIONS: Upper thoracic intersegmental artery stenoses are frequent. They result from the leftward deviation of the descending aorta and the existence of a fixed point along the course of the intersegmental arteries related to the endothoracic fascia. Because contributors to the spinal vascularization often originate at similar levels, these stenoses may play a role in the susceptibility of the upper and midthoracic spinal cord to ischemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1226-1231
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology


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