Vertebral Artery Sacrifice versus Skeletonization in the Setting of Cervical Spine Tumor Resection: Case Series

Erick M. Westbroek, Zach Pennington, Jeff Ehresman, A. Karim Ahmed, Philippe Gailloud, Daniel M. Sciubba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: Tumors of the cervical spine often encase 1 or both vertebral arteries (VA), presenting the treating surgeon with the dilemma of whether to sacrifice or skeletonize the artery. We propose an algorithm for VA management in surgeries for cervical neoplasms Methods: A retrospective review was carried out of 67 patients undergoing resection of cervical spine tumors with VA involvement. Patients were categorized by tumor origin (primary vs. metastatic) and degree of circumferential VA involvement: 1) abutment only; 2) <180° circumferential involvement; 3) >180° circumferential involvement without complete encasement; or 4) complete encasement. Results: Twelve patients (18%) underwent VA sacrifice, whereas 55 (82%) underwent VA skeletonization. Compared with 11/30 patients with primary tumors (37%), only 1/37 patients (3%) with metastatic disease underwent VA sacrifice (P < 0.01). This patient had invasion of the V2 arterial wall, requiring VA sacrifice. Odds of VA sacrifice also increased with increasing circumferential involvement (P < 0.01). No patients with simple abutment or 0°–180° circumferential involvement underwent sacrifice, whereas 6 of 10 (60%) with 180°–359° involvement and 6 of 29 (21%) with complete encasement underwent VA sacrifice. Of the 27 patients with ≥180° involvement, the reasons for preserving the VA were metastatic disease at the time of treatment (n = 18), a compromised contralateral VA (n = 7), vertebrobasilar junction aplasia (n = 1), and presence of a radiculomedullary artery at the affected level (n = 1). Conclusions: Primary tumor disease and >180° of circumferential VA involvement should be considered as indications for intraoperative sacrifice of the VA pending preoperative angiographic evaluation for contraindications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e601-e607
JournalWorld neurosurgery
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Cervical spine
  • En bloc resection
  • Spine tumor
  • Vertebral artery sacrifice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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