Subclavian Steal Syndrome

When the origin of the subclavian artery supplying blood to the arm is obstructed by cholesterol plaque, the vertebral artery will become a collateral vessel supplying blood to the arm. If this happens, this creates two problems:

    1. The blockage of the subclavian artery causes decreased circulation to the vertebral artery on the same side.

    2. The need for more blood flow to the arteries of the arms may suck away blood from the basilar artery in the brain back down the vertebral artery. During exercise of the arms this is especially true because of the demand for blood flow is significantly increased.

The classic symptoms of subclavian steal syndrome include vertigo/dizziness, fainting, and arm fatigue or pain following exercise of the arm on the same side as the subclavian artery blockage.