Misdiagnosis of Cervicocephalic Artery Dissection in the Emergency Department

Ava L. Liberman, Babak B. Navi, Charles C. Esenwa, Cenai Zhang, Justin Song, Natalie T. Cheng, Daniel L. Labovitz, Hooman Kamel, Alexander E. Merkler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose - Cervicocephalic artery dissection is an important cause of stroke. The clinical presentation of dissection can resemble that of benign neurological conditions leading to delayed or missed diagnosis. Methods - We performed a retrospective cohort study using statewide administrative claims data from all Emergency Department visits and admissions at nonfederal hospitals in Florida from 2005 to 2015 and New York from 2006 to 2015. Using validated International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, CM codes, we identified adult patients hospitalized for cervicocephalic artery dissection. We defined probable misdiagnosis of dissection as having an Emergency Department treat-and-release visit for symptoms or signs of dissection, including headache, neck pain, and focal neurological deficits in the 14 days before dissection diagnosis. Multivariable logistic regression was used to compare adverse clinical outcomes in patients with and without probable misdiagnosis. Results - Among 7090 patients diagnosed with a dissection (mean age 52.7 years, 44.9% women), 218 (3.1% [95% CI, 2.7%-3.5%]) had a preceding probable Emergency Department misdiagnosis. After adjustment for demographics and vascular risk factors, there were no differences in rates of stroke (odds ratio, 0.82 [95% CI, 0.62-1.09]) or in-hospital death (odds ratio, 0.26 [95% CI, 0.07-1.08]) between dissection patients with and without a probable misdiagnosis at index hospitalization. Conclusions - We found that ≈1 in 30 dissection patients was probably misdiagnosed in the 2 weeks before their diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1876-1878
Number of pages3
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • diagnosis
  • diagnostic errors
  • dissection
  • headache

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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