Vertebrobasilar Syndrome

Vertebrobasilar syndrome means you have problems that may be due to poor circulation through the vertebrobasilar blood vessels (arteries). These arteries supply blood to the base of the brain. You may be at risk for having a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).


This syndrome can occur due to a partial or complete blockage in the vertebrobasilar arteries. Vertebrobasilar syndrome can be caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis). When one or more of these blood vessels is blocked, the condition is called vertebrobasilar disease.

Vertebrobasilar syndrome may be provoked by sudden changes in blood pressure, dehydration, sudden changes in position, external forces from sports or injury, and mechanical force such as turning your head in extreme positions or hyperextending the neck.


Risk factors that increase your chances for developing vertebrobasilar syndrome include:

  • Increased age.

  • Male gender.

  • High blood pressure.

  • Diabetes.

  • Smoking.

  • Elevated cholesterol.

  • Family history.

  • Genetics.  


  • Numbness or weakness in the arms and legs.

  • Sudden onset of severe dizziness.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Suddenly falling down (drop attacks) or sudden, general weakness.

  • Double vision, slurred speech, or trouble swallowing.

  • Loss of vision.

  • Loss of coordination.

  • Headache in the back of the head.


You will need a thorough medical exam to determine whether you have vertebrobasilar disease. Tests to study your brain circulation may be needed to locate the exact problem. This may include an ultrasound exam, CT scan, or MRI scan.


Your treatment will depend on the results of further testing. Medicines that thin the blood, such as aspirin, may be given to help reduce your risk of having a stroke. Lifestyle changes may also be needed, such as:

  • Maintaining good hydration.

  • Not standing up too quickly.

  • Controlling high blood pressure.

  • Controlling diabetes.

  • Controlling cholesterol.

  • Quitting smoking.


  • Do not smoke. Smoking will make this condition worse.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines as directed by your caregiver.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments as directed by your caregiver.


  • You have severe dizziness, or you fall down.

  • You have repeated vomiting.

  • You have headaches or unusual weakness or numbness.

  • You have vision changes.

  • You cannot speak or swallow normally.

  • You feel confused.

  • Your family or friends notice changes in your behavior.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.