Recovery progress after stroke and vertebral artery dissection

I have been meaning to provide an update on my recovery progress after suffering the vertebral artery dissection and stroke. I had another MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram) scan of my head and neck vasculature on January 30th, about eight weeks after the stroke and six weeks after beginning the anticoagulant therapy.

MRA results

The report I received from the radiologist who read/interpreted the MRA images stated that my vertebral artery had an “essentially normal appearing lumen” with no signs of the dissection from before. This is simply amazing to me that the dissected vertebral artery has healed completely.

While I’m overjoyed, I do need to await the consult with my neurologist to discuss the MRA report and determine what happens next in my treatment plan. That appointment is in about 10 days from today. My expectation is that I’ll still need one or more follow-up MRAs to watch for any potential issues with my vertebral arteries or cranial vasculature—just in case—and hopefully I can scale back or discontinue the anticoagulation therapy immediately.

Vertebral artery images: then and now

Below are images of my vertebral artery showing the dissection and narrowing of the lumen ← as compared to the same after six weeks of anticoagulant therapy → showing a return to normal size and function.

Comparison MRAs showing vertebral artery dissection ← and recovery →


And, below is the larger image of the latest MRA of the carotid and vertebral arteries with the right side showing signs of recovery.

My follow-up MRA showing recovery of right vertebral artery 8 weeks after dissection.

What now?

My primary doctor has cleared me for any activity I want to do including running, cycling, and other sports with the exception of anything at high altitudes (> 10,000 ft.) or at extreme pressure (scuba diving). I’m slowly getting back into my fitness/training regimen with an eye toward some ultra running goals later this year. With the recurrence possibility of this type of artery dissection and stroke slim to none, I intend to live life fully and demonstrate that exercise truly is the best medicine.

649 Replies to “Recovery progress after stroke and vertebral artery dissection”

  1. It’s 3am. Im 45 yrs old. Laying in a rehab center after my right VAD 🙁 I got a concussion after hitting my head extremely hard on the x-ray machine at work. Five weeks later I woke up to the worst morning of my life . Long story short, I was hospitalized for 10 days, and now in rehab. So lucky but as now now dealing with a small speech delay, weekness in the right side when walking and issues with Motor skills , perception and planning. The dizziness is a constant feeling of being in a boat. They all say it should go away slowly with time. I’m scared. Confused. And not sure with what I’m restricted on doing for life. The neurologist even mentioned never washing hair in a salon sink do to leaning back. I’m so lucky to be able to be talking and walking but I’m stricken with anxiety of this happening again. I just want to get home to my 10 year old son, husband, pets ,amazing family and get back to working in the medical field again. Suggestions welcome. Thank you all.

    1. I had a right VAD and a cerebellar stroke very similar to yours one year ago. I started to feel unable to walk properly, dizziness, strong nausea, and delay talking (short memory problems). It took 3 months to diagnose it properly. I was unable to work for days. Starting and stopping again when the symptoms where unbearable. At that time the arteria was completely damaged from its start to the beginning of PICA arteria which was occluded and caused the stroke. A psychiatrist helped me with the anxiety and the fear. It is very important to re-start working very slow and part time to avoid getting very tired or anxious. It is also very important to sleep a lot. I’m now able to do very light exercise at the gym, home or ridding bicycle. If I exercise anaerobic I have very strong dizziness 10 days later (I have one less arteria giving blood flow to the brain) so up yo now, it is not possible to move my head quickly or demand a lot of oxygen in the rest of the body. The improvement is very slow, but don’t worry anytime the dizziness gets stronger it’s completely normal. It takes a lot of time. I’m still wondering if I will be able to ride my mountain bike as hard as I used to with my friends and family. I’m 44 years old, healthy, sports man. The VAD was probably cause by an unfortunate strong turn of my head while making a very strong effort. No cervical adjustment in the last 3 years. No others possible causes. No blood or cardiac issues. But it is important to say I have a little tissue disorder (a lot of ankle, knee twists, several shoulder dislocations. Then the internal artery layer is weaker than the regular ones and the VAD is not so rare in my case. I’m not scared about having another one. The odds are very very low even in my case.
      Hope this helps
      Agus (Madrid, Spain)

    2. Hi again, I forgot to mention that I had a bad episode 10 days after riding my bicycle for several hours climbing a mountain. It was around the 8th month. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like I was falling to the right side repeatedly, vertigo and nausea. Like someone was pulling me to the right continually. My neurologist told me that it was related with my damaged ear nerves at cerebellum. She prescribed me vertigo pills but they didn’t make any difference. The symptoms were fading with time, patience, a lot of rest, and 14 days off work. It was scared but I lost it very quickly compared to the dizziness feeling of the first 6 months. 12 months later I’m much better and the mind fog is not as heavy as it used to. The dizziness is lightly present. A friend that suffered a heavy cerebellum stroke told me that I am very lucky because my symptoms status are like his after 6 years of recovery. I’ve assumed that some things (to do) are out of my league but I’m happy now about being able to do a lot of things. I don’t know, may be lucky I had aspirin the first moment I had pain punctures in the back of my head.
      I hope you recover soon

  2. 16 Jan 2018 dissection of back left artery in the neck C4 region. Occurred during early morning surfing and collapsed 2 hours later vertigo and vomiting. Admitted to hospital within 35 minutes of the mild stroke occurring. I have walked away with zero negative effects of the stroke (fortunate). Back at work after 4 weeks. Did my first light workout at gym last weekend. Another 5 months of warafin ahead with a CT scan. I am 50 years old, fit with an at rest heart rate less than 58 beats per minute. My query relates to what long term limitations are put on sports participation – I have currently told no contact sports including surfing, and no participation in anything where my neck can be moved suddenly. Is this consistent with feedback given to others?

    1. You are so very lucky and blessed. I am 32 yrs old female and had a right VAD with stroke 5 months ago. Took 2 hospitals and 3 days to diagnose so the effects are still very much struggle in my life. It’s so hard to stay positive when you feel trapped in your body. Happy for you and remember u are blessed!

  3. Hi All,
    It was such an inspiring and useful healing group of people going through same page.
    My husband 36, recently had a bad headache for a week, sumptom: nausea , headache, dizziness, slowley neck pain started.
    We did MRI, the report was abnormality blood flow to brain and suspected VAD, to confirm it we did CTA and it was cobfirmed VAD.
    We was admitted in hospital for 5days, given heparin, Warfrin and now discharged and at home. We have appointment after 1 month to see the healing. At current his on ibufen and
    Pantaparazole. I am worried if these medication help in blood thinning? No aspirn or wrfin given since after his dicharge from hospital.
    Thank you and and all.

    1. Dale
      Hi I’m grateful for this site.
      I am a active 60 yo male that worked out most day with heavy weights and walking/light jogging. A non smoker non drinker with a fairly healthy eating habits. Was lifting on Jan. 9th and after a heavy set for me my vision shook momentarily. The next morning i woke up and laying on my back every thing was fine until i sat up and then the vertigo smacked me. Took me a while to make it to the bathroom where i layed on the floor sweating and dry heaving.
      Spent 5 days in the hospital with a diagnosis of a VAD and a stroke. Given heparin, Warfrin and now discharged and at home. I am still on a 81mg aspirin and Warfrin. Blood levels are now at 2.5. Believe i will be on Warfrin for three months. Have always had the pulsatile tinnitus but it’s much loader now. Am disappointed with what has happened but am only suffering mild effects from my stroke. Do have the ringing in the ears , sore neck and headaches. I know many are suffering much worse effects and i do have gratitude that i can take care of myself as i live along. I do still suffer from anxiety that another stroke is a moment away. I have been told to only lift 10lbs for 6 months so haven’t made it to the gym but for now i’m ok with that. I have been on 2-3 mile walks. All my neurologist kept saying how lucky i am and to go live life. I’m trying but hard to with the headaches and neck pain.
      Thank you for reading and God Bless.

      1. Hi Dale
        How long ago did this all happen to you?
        I’m at nearly at the 5 week mark and like you feel lucky that it wasn’t worse but still finding it very hard, Have same as you … tinnitus and terrible neck and head pain plus some numbness on the left side of my face and right leg doesn’t know hot or cold, blunt or sharp
        I just want the pain to go away and dizziness

        1. Hi Kira
          Happened on Jan. 10th. I had a lot of tingling on my left cheek -chin area for the first month but that seems to have gone away. Today it’s seems i’m doing better as i’m not as off feeling (less dizzy, less headache & less neck-ache). I do have the Rice Crispie neck that snap, crackles and pops. Hopefully with some time our bodies will heal.

  4. I had a cerebellar stroke a year ago feb 2017. I am 43 years old, healthy, mountain biker, no toxic habits. I suffered dizziness, difficulty to walk, hoarseness, difficulty to focus at work, to talk in a group, driving with too much traffic, feeling confusion when hearing a lot of people, or walking in a mall where lightning is intense and hallways are very wide.
    It took 2 months to diagnose it properly because the synthons where not severe. And one month more to find the root cause: spontaneous vertebral arteria dissection (no trauma). At first it was a releif because I was constantly wondering “what did I do to suffer a stroke?”.
    4 months after the first episode I felt worse 7 days after some workout at rhe gym and rinding my bicycle , the inertia of my head after a sudden movement (it was like it weighted 50 kg), the sun (even under the umbrella), the walks… and then I felt depressed because instead of improving my health I was feeling very dizzy even more than the first days.
    1 month later, I got used to dizziness, I tried to be accompanied by friends and family, and I got well. I came back to work after a lot of highs and lows. I still have problems when getting up quickly, starting to walk or talking to fast and loud. Patience and more Patience is the only way.
    I am “joint hiperlax” (a lot of ankle and knee twists, and several shoulder dislocations until I went to the OR). No pathology, but inherited laxity. Neurologists told me that is related to VAD.
    After 11 months I can ride my bicycle but 7-10 days later the sympthoms are unbearable. Then I have to sleep a lot to recover and workout light at the gym. ¿Does anyone have the same problems when doing sports?
    Thanks for the web and all the stories that help to understand the condition, the rehabilitation and that there are really a lot of strong survivors!

  5. Hello ,

    I had a VAD in July of 2016 and had a stroke that hit my left cerebellum about a week later. I’m now 27 years old and almost 2 years into my recovery. There are so many posts on this forum which i have found incredibly uplifting and helpful. My question is has anyone gotten pregnant post VAD/ stroke ? Did you have any complications or problems? I’d like to try and get pregnant later this year but there is so little information out there for people like

    1. Hi Taylor! Wanted to reach out regarding the pregnancy question. while I haven’t gotten pregnant since my VAD, I did ask my neurologist about this she said its perfectly fine once healed. She did state that a C-section is safer than the straining of natural birth. That’s all the input I can add. Congrats on your healing and hopefully a new baby soon!
      Best Leah

    2. Hi, I too had a Bi VAD and left cerebellum stroke in February 2016. I was 31 years old then. In November 2017 I delivered a healthy baby girl via C Section cause my baby was in Breech position. My pregnancy, delivery and postpartum we’re very smooth. I made it a point to take rest during pregnancy. My gyn was fine with vaginal delivery. My neurologist had suggested to try for pregnancy after healing of VAD because he wanted not to be on blood thinners during pregnancy. Presently, I am on no medication but have moderate feeling of numbness, stiffness and heaviness on my right side of body which I believe will fade with passing of time. Speak to your neurologist if he says it’s ok then you can go ahead.

  6. I am a 27 year old RN recovering from a spontaneous right VAD which caused a stroke in my cerebellum 2 months ago. I still experience headaches, dizziness with fast movements or any movement of my neck, ringing in the ears, eye twitching and off Balance. I am currently only taking Aspirin 325 mg daily. I am so glad I found this forum. It’s hard to explain to others how I don’t feel like myself, they just don’t get it. I always feel “off”

    1. Emily, If you are feeling “off”, you’ve come to the right place. So many of us in this forum know how that feels.

      So many symptoms I experience in the months following my stroke eventually went away. When I saw the neurologist at the 3 year mark, he said he thought I had “stabilized” and he didn’t need to see me for a year. That was the first I had heard that term and I wonder if there is a pattern of this and that happening immediately after the event (such and you mentioned) and then things quiet down on their own. Perhaps you could check with your doctor and see if he/she thinks time will heal some of the symptoms you are feeling. I remember I worried a lot in those first months because having a stroke is so unexpected, and I wondered if I would have another one, and what each strange feeling meant. In time they went away, and I suspect they will for you too. Your doctor may be able to reassure you about that.

      1. Mary I am 32 yr old female and 5 months out of right VAD with stroke. Mine left me unable to walk for several weeks with numbness and bad balance. I have developed central pain syndrome and it leaves burning feeling in parts of my body. I still don’t work and I was a busy woman before. I have the stamina of a 9 month pregnant 80 yr old. Not trying to be funny but it’s the truth. I am exhausted ALL the time and I feel trapped in my body and I cry all the time. My question is when did you feel you stabilized? Can use get better after 5 months??? So hard to stay positive. Thanks for any advice

        1. Yes. there is so many sea changes between 5 months and 3 1/2 years, that you can’t imagine. . I had over 40 weeks of PT this winter and it helped a lot with muscle pain and stamina. (By the way, I am 80, so if I keep improving, you surely will!) So sorry that you are crying a lot. To ease that, can you look at stroke recovery as a “project”? Seeing it that way made it easier for me to cope.

          Neurologist mentioned that I had stabilized when I saw him 3 years after the stroke. But the stroke after-affects keep changing, even though from his point of view I am stabilized.

          The exhaustion I share, and know exactly what you mean. “Pace yourself” was the advice of my neurologist when it first happened and I asked about fatigue. That was one of the many life style changes I have made. You are almost 50 years younger than I am, so I think you can look forward to great healing and recovery. If you are on Facebook, and want to discuss the RPS further, I would be happy to.

  7. Bad car accident 7 weeks ago, stroke 18 days later, piece of plack broke from artery (stroke)vertebrae artery pulverized between vertebrae 1-4 . 2nd vertebrae 1/2 pulverized. 3 2/2 gone inserted 2 pins 7 screws. 2 screws first vertebrae, 1 scree 2 vertebrae ( no place for second screw, 3 vertebrae like popcorn. Main vertebrae artery between 1-4 pulverized, but I’m walking , talking, alive. No polarized, moving neck aprox 70% , Rehab 4 times aweek, dropping to 2-3 times a week. Mussel therapy really helping! A little loss of balance, have to think twice on occasion. Otherwise 1/2 normal and who can define normal.
    I’ve got questions
    1) hight/ planes
    2) running
    3) what am I limited to.
    4) a little red wine
    5) feel like I have Jewish skull cap on when I wake up for about hour standing up
    6) like tiny release of blood (pin holes) on top of skull 2/3 times week, like tiny scabes. Scrape off no problem.
    7) only good by dr to not do any exercise like bobbing of the head.. no 4 wheeling, horse back ridding

    Back to work (manage hotel) 7 -8 hrs a day encluding 1 3/4 hrs driving back and forth.
    help for comfort level want to stay alive as we all do. Going to follow this app

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