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Skull base surgery. 2000; 10(1): 17–27.
PMCID: PMC1656749

Management of Zone III Missile Injuries Involving the Carotid Artery and Cranial Nerves


Carotid and cranial nerve injuries from zone III (high cervical/cranial base) missile injuries are rare and difficult to treat. We have treated five patients with such injuries. We present our management scheme, and compare it to the management of the same injuries in other reports. Five consecutive zone III missile injuries presented to our institution. Trauma assessment by the trauma team, followed by detailed neurological assessment and radiographs (angiogram and computed tomography) were obtained on admission. All patients presented with dysphagia and carotid artery injury with good collateral flow, documented by angiogram. Two patients had facial nerve injury, one had trigeminal nerve injury, one patient presented with tongue weakness, and one patient suffered conductive hearing loss. No patient had evidence of stroke clinically or radiographically. Carotid artery injury was managed with bypass (3 of 5) or ligation (2 of 5). Cranial nerve injuries were documented and treated aggressively with surgery if needed. All patients were discharged to home. Patients presenting with zone III missile injuries should receive an expeditious neurological exam and four-vessel angiogram after initial trauma survey and resuscitation. Bypass of the injured portion of carotid artery is a valid treatment in the hemodynamically stable patient. The unstable patient should undergo ligation to stop hemorrhage and protect against immediate risk for stroke, with the option to bypass later. Cranial nerve injuries should be pursued and aggressively treated to minimize morbidity and prevent mortality.

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Selected References

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