Vertebrobasilar insufficiency (VBI) is reduced or stopped blood flow to the back of your brain. Hardening of your arteries (atherosclerosis) often causes this condition. VBI impacts your balance and movement, as well as increases your risk of stroke and other health issues. Treatments for VBI include lifestyle changes, medication and surgery.
Vertebrobasilar insufficiency (VBI) is when blood flow to the back of your brain reduces or stops. VBI affects the parts of your brain that control balance and movement.
Many people with VBI have only minor health problems. But VBI puts you at higher risk for a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA, or mini stroke). This condition can also sometimes cause serious disability and death.
Healthcare providers often treat vertebrobasilar insufficiency with lifestyle changes and medications. You may need surgery if you continue having symptoms despite these interventions.
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Transient vertebrobasilar insufficiency is a rare form of VBI caused by turning or rotating your head. Healthcare providers also call this condition:
You’re at higher risk of VBI if you’re over age 50 and have:
Heart conditions that can cause a blocked artery (cardioembolic conditions) also raise your risk of VBI. These conditions include:
Men have twice the risk of VBI when compared to women. Black Americans also have a higher risk than other ethnic groups.
As many as 25% of people over age 70 may have VBI.
A hardening of your arteries (atherosclerosis) commonly causes VBI. Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque formed from cholesterol and calcium builds up in your arteries. This plaque causes your arteries to narrow and reduces blood flow.
Other common VBI causes include:
Less common causes of VBI include:
Symptoms of VBI may include:
Your healthcare provider will ask you about your symptoms and give you a physical exam. They may suggest other tests, including:
Your healthcare provider may suggest lifestyle changes to help reduce your VBI symptoms. These changes may include:
Your healthcare provider may also recommend medications to help manage health issues. These may include medications to control:
If lifestyle changes and medications don’t help your blood flow, your healthcare provider may suggest surgery. Surgery to treat VBI includes:
Healthcare providers may treat transient vertebrobasilar insufficiency with:
You can reduce your risk of vertebrobasilar insufficiency if you:
The prognosis for VBI depends on:
Serious cases of VBI may lead to disability and death.
Most people with mild symptoms are able to manage symptoms with lifestyle changes and medication. If you have severe symptoms, you may need rehabilitation for months to years.
Problems that can result from VBI include:
VBI has a recurrence rate of 10% to 15%.
You can take care of yourself by learning skills to aid in your recovery. You may need help with:
Types of therapy that can benefit you include:
You may also need help from a home care nurse who can check on your recovery.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Vertebrobasilar insufficiency (VBI) occurs when blood flow to the back of your brain lessens or ends. This part of your brain controls movement and balance, so VBI can lead to difficulty swallowing, dizziness and numbness. Hardening of your arteries (atherosclerosis) usually causes VBI. Lifestyle changes and medications can often help control your symptoms. Your healthcare provider may suggest surgery if your symptoms continue. Occupational, physical and speech therapy can also help improve your day-to-day life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/01/2022.
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