To diagnose a vertebral artery disorder along with cervical instability, the test is a vertebral angiogram CT scan. Dye is injected into the vein which temporarily lights up the arteries and veins on the CT scan. Then, the head is rotated to one side (both sides are eventually performed) and a CT scan of the upper neck is completed.
This scan will look at both the vascular anatomy (is the vertebral artery being compressed with motion?) and are the upper vertebra remaining stable with motion? Yes-the scan requires more radiation but is the only way I know to diagnose these two disorders.
Doppler images are not effective to look at the vertebral arteries as these arteries are incased in bone and not visible on ultrasound images.
Donald Corenman, MD, DC is a highly-regarded spine surgeon, considered an expert in the area of neck and back pain. Trained as both a Medical Doctor and Doctor of Chiropractic, Dr. Corenman earned academic appointments as Clinical Assistant Professor and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and his research on spine surgery and rehabilitation has resulted in the publication of multiple peer-reviewed articles and two books.