Conditions + Treatments

Arterial Dissection in Children

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Arterial Dissection

The Cerebrovascular Surgery and Interventions Center treats arterial dissection and other cerebrovascular conditions. An arterial dissection is a tear along the inside lining of an artery in the head, neck or spine that can cause serious neurologic problems, such as stroke. It may be referred to as a vertebral dissection (involving arteries supplying blood to the brainstem and upper spinal cord) or a carotid dissection (involving arteries feeding the hemispheres of the brain, as well as the head and neck).

In one type of arterial dissection, called a dissecting pseudoaneurysm, the tear in the artery wall can enlarge to form a small pouch in which blood collects, known as a “false lumen.”

Arterial dissection can cause serious complications:

  • In some cases, injury to the lining of the artery may narrow it enough to block the flow of blood.
  • Alternatively, the injury can cause a clot that can potentially break off, travel deep into the brain’s arteries, interrupt blood flow and cause an arterial ischemic stroke.
  • Sometimes the false lumen can behave like an aneurysm and burst, causing a hemorrhagic stroke (major bleeding into the brain).

With proper treatment, many children recover completely from arterial dissection, though, unfortunately, some will be left with deficits in brain function that can range from mild to severe. Patients with conditions that predispose them to arterial dissection may be advised to permanently avoid rough contact sports or high-risk activities that could stress the vessels.

How we care for arterial dissection at Boston Children’s Hospital

The Cerebrovascular Surgery and Interventions Center offers a number of different  treatments for arterial dissection, based on the child’s needs and careful and detailed imaging. We have developed a variety of novel techniques to image children’s vessels safely. Because we see many children with arterial dissection, we are able to track the efficacy of specific treatments over time and use this information to guide our practice. 

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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