Vertebral Artery Diameter and Flow: Nature or Nurture

Adam Domonkos Tarnoki, Bence Fejer, David Laszlo Tarnoki, Levente Littvay, Pierleone Lucatelli, Carlo Cirelli, Fabrizio Fanelli, Beatrice Sacconi, Corrado Fagnani, Emanuela Medda, Filippo Farina, Giorgio Meneghetti, Tamas Horvath, Giacomo Pucci, Giuseppe Schillaci, Maria Antonietta Stazi, Claudio Baracchini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: In contrast with the carotid arteries, the vertebral arteries (VAs) show considerable variation in length, caliber, and vessel course. This study investigated whether the variation in diameter and flow characteristics of the VAs might be inherited. METHODS: A total of 172 Italian twins from Padua, Perugia, and Terni (54 monozygotic, 32 dizygotic) recruited from the Italian Twin Registry underwent B-mode and pulsed-wave Doppler ultrasound assessment of their VAs. VA diameters, peak systolic velocity (PSV) and end diastolic velocity (EDV) were assessed at the level of a horizontal V2 segment. Univariate quantitative genetic modeling was performed. RESULTS: Fourteen percent of the sample had VA hypoplasia. Within pair correlation in monozygotic twins was higher than in dizygotics (.552 vs.229) for VA diameter. Age- and sex-adjusted genetic effect, under the most parsimonious model, accounted for 54.7% (95% CI: 42.2-69.1%) of the variance of VA diameter, and unshared environmental effect for 45.3% (95% CI: 30.9-57.8%). No heritability was found for the PSV of VA, but shared (34.1%; 95% CI: 16.7-53.7%) and unshared (65.9%; 95% CI: 45.9-83.1%) environmental factors determined the variance. EDV of VA is moderately genetically influenced (42.4%; 95% CI: 16.1-64.9%) and also determined by the unshared environment (57.6%; 95% CI: 34.7-83.7%). CONCLUSIONS: The diameter of the VAs is moderately genetically determined. Different factors influence the PSV and EDV of VAs, which may highlight the complex hemodynamic background of VA flow and help to understand the vertebral flow anomalies found by ultrasound.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-504
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neuroimaging
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Doppler
  • flow
  • genetics
  • hypoplasia
  • velocity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology


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