A case of medulla oblongata compression by tortuous vertebral arteries presenting with spastic quadriplegia

Takashi Kamada, Takahisa Tateishi, Tamayo Yamashita, Shinji Nagata, Yasumasa Ohyagi, Jun Ichi Kira

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5 Citations (Scopus)


We report a 58-year-old man showing spastic paraparesis due to medulla oblongata compression by tortuous vertebral arteries. He noticed weakness of both legs and gait disturbance at the age of 58 years and his symptoms progressively worsened during the following several months. General physical findings were normal. Blood pressure was normal and there were no signs of arteriosclerosis. Neurological examination on admission revealed lower-limb-dominant spasticity in all four extremities, lower-limb weakness, hyperreflexia in all extremities with positive Wartenberg's, Babinski's and Chaddock's signs, mild hypesthesia and hypopallesthesia in both lower limbs, and spastic gait. Cranial nerves were all normal. Serum was negative for antibodies against human T-cell lymphotropic virus-1 antibody. Nerve conduction and needle electromyographic studies of all four limbs revealed normal findings. Cervical, thoracic and lumbo-sacral magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings were all normal. Brain MRI and magnetic resonance angiography demonstrated bilateral tortuous vertebral arteries compressing the medulla oblongata. Neurovascular decompression of the right vertebral artery was performed because compression of the right side was more severe than that of the left side. Post-operative MRI revealed outward translocation of the right vertebral artery and relieved compression of the medulla oblongata on the right side. The patient's symptoms and neurological findings improved gradually after the operation. Bilateral pyramidal tract signs without cranial nerve dysfunction due to compression of the medulla oblongata by tortuous vertebral arteries are extremely rare and clinically indistinguishable from hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP). Although we did not perform a genetic test for HSP, we consider that the spastic paraparesis and mild lower-limb hypesthesia were caused by compression of the medulla oblongata by bilateral tortuous vertebral arteries based on the post-operative improvement in symptoms. Given the favorable effects of surgery, tortuous vertebral arteries should be considered in the differential diagnosis of patients presenting with progressive spastic paraparesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-361
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Neurology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology


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