Denver screening criteria


  • Used to screen for vertebral and carotid artery dissection and/or injury after blunt head and neck trauma (BCVI - blunt cerebrovascular injury)[1][2]
  • A CTA to evaluate for VAI should be obtained in those meeting the modified Denver Criteria
  • BCVI has the highest association with cervical hyperextension and rotation, hyperflexion, or direct blunt force to head and neck[3]
  • Most injuries are diagnosed after the development of symptoms secondary to central nervous system ischemia resulting in neurologic morbidity of up to 80% and associated mortality of up to 40%.[4]
Algorithm for evaluation of BCVI with high risk criteria based on Memphis and Denver Screening Criteria


Denver screening criteria for blunt cerebrovascular injury

The Denver Screening Criteria are divided into risk factors and signs and symptoms

Signs and Symptoms

  • Arterial hemorrhage
  • Cervical bruit
  • Expanding neck hematoma
  • Focal neurologic deficit
  • Neuro exam inconsistent with head CT
  • Stroke on head CT

Risk Factors

  • Midface Fractures (Le Fort II or III)
  • Basilar Skull Fracture with carotid canal involvement
  • Diffuse axonal injury with GCS<6
  • Cervical spine fracture
  • Hanging with anoxic brain injury
  • Seat belt abrasion or other soft tissue injury of the anterior neck resulting in significant swelling or altered mental status
    • Isolated seatbelt sign without other neurologic symptoms has not been identified as a risk factor[5][6][7]

See Also


  1. Bromberg, William. et al. Blunt Cerebrovascular Injury Practice Management Guidelines: The Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma. J Trauma. 68 (2): 471-7, Feb 2010.
  2. Cothren CC, Moore EE, Biffl WL, et al. Anticoagulation is the gold standard therapy for blunt carotid injuries to reduce stroke rate. Arch Surg. 2004;139:540–545; discussion 545–546. PDF
  3. Biffl WL, Moore EE, Offner PJ, et al. Optimizing screening for blunt cerebrovascular injuries. Am J Surg. 1999;178:517–522.
  4. Davis JW, Holbrook TL, Hoyt DB, Mackersie RC, Field TO Jr, Shackford SR. Blunt carotid artery dissection: incidence, associated injuries, screening, and treatment. J Trauma. 1990;30:1514–1517
  5. DiPerna CA, Rowe VL, Terramani TT, et al. Clinical importance of the “seat belt sign” in blunt trauma to the neck. Am Surg. 2002;68:441–445
  6. Rozycki GS, Tremblay L, Feliciano DV, et al. A prospective study for the detection of vascular injury in adult and pediatric patients with cervicothoracic seat belt signs. J Trauma. 2002;52:618–623; discussion 623–624
  7. Sherbaf FG, Chen B, Pomeranz T, et al. Value of emergent neurovascular imaging for “Seat belt injury”: A multi-institutional study. American Journal of Neuroradiology. 2021;42(4):743-748