Vertebrobasilar circulatory disorders

Alternative Names

Vertebrobasilar insufficiency; Posterior circulation ischemia

Definition of Vertebrobasilar circulatory disorders

Vertebrobasilar circulatory disorders are conditions in which blood supply to the back of the brain is disrupted.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The vertebrobasilar system is also called the back (posterior) circulation of the brain. This part of the brain contains structures that are crucial for keeping a person alive. For instance, the brainstem controls breathing and swallowing, among other things. Parts of the brain help with vision (occipital lobes) and movement coordination (cerebellum) are also located in the back of the brain.


Symptoms of strokes due to vertebrobasilar disorders may include:

Signs and tests

Tests depend on the possible underlying cause, but may include:


Sudden onset of vertebrobasilar symptoms is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. For treatment information, see:

Expectations (prognosis)

The outlook depends in part on the underlying cause. Strokes are potentially life threatening, and require urgent medical care. Age and the person’s overall health are taken into consideration when determining one’s outlook for recovery. A substantial recovery can be expected in younger patients who have no significant medical problems.


Daniel Kantor, MD, Medical Director of Neurologique, Ponte Vedra, FL and President of the Florida Society of Neurology (FSN). Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 10/4/2010

Vertebral column
Arteries of the brain

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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