The vertebral artery was intact/unaffected in 75% of hangings. Vertebral artery dissection can be one cause of a stroke.
The vertebral artery was investigated in suicidal hanging for specific forensic, but also general traumatological reasons. The objective was to establish the extent to which the vertebral artery in its relatively protected position is injured at all and if so, in what form. For this purpose, cervical spine preparations with the posterior space of the skull were fixed in formalin and detached in the sagittal plane in 36 unselected cases of suicidal hanging after angiographic visualization of the vertebral artery. Afterwards, both vertebral arteries were visualized, and vascular injuries were compared with injuries of the soft tissues of the neck, of the cervical spine, and of the external types of hanging. The vertebral artery was shown to be injured quite frequently (rupture, intimal tear, sub-intimal hemorrhage), namely in one quarter of all cases, and indeed in more than half taking into account the perivascular bleeding. In this way, frequencies were found which were far in excess of those of the common carotid artery. The different mechanical behavior of these two paired neck arteries in traction are dealt with and the form of injury explained.