Cognitive decline and hypersomnolence: Thalamic manifestations of a tentorial dural arteriovenous fistula (dAVF)

Neha Morparia, Gary Miller, Alejandro Rabinstein, Giuseppe Lanzino, Neeraj Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Intracranial dural arteriovenous fistulas (dAVFs) often present with pulsatile tinnitus, orbital congestion, and headache. Occasionally, they present with focal neurologic deficits, a dementia-like syndrome, hemorrhage, or ischemic infarction. Methods: This study is based on the case of a 71-year-old gentleman who presented with 6 months of progressive forgetfulness, inattention, and hypersomnolence. Four weeks prior to presentation, he developed symptoms of left-sided pain, numbness, and worsening weakness. Neurologic examination demonstrated hypersomnolence, a score of 30/38 on the Kokmen Short Test of Mental Status, and left hemiparesis. MRI brain revealed bilateral thalamic T2 hyperintensities with associated enhancement. MR venogram (MRV) showed a vascular malformation in the posterior fossa and occlusion of the straight sinus. Conventional cerebral angiogram confirmed a tentorial dAVF. The dAVF was definitively treated with transarterial embolization, followed by clip ligation of the arterialized draining vein. Twelve weeks later, there was clinical resolution of left hemiparesis and improvement in cognitive status. MRI revealed complete resolution of the thalamic hyperintensities. MRV demonstrated recanalization of the straight sinus. Results: Intracranial dAVFs are uncommon but potentially life-threatening acquired vascular malformations. The initiating factor is venous hypertension, causing retrograde flow, venous congestion, ischemia, and sometimes infarction. The spectrum of clinical manifestations in dAVFs reflects the degree of venous congestion present. If retrograde venous flow is surgically obliterated, then venous hypertension may be reversible. Bilateral thalamic venous congestion can present as a thalamic dementia. Conclusion: We conclude that intracranial dAVFs with thalamic venous congestion should be considered in the diagnostic differential for patients who present with subacute cognitive decline and T2 hyperintense thalamic signal change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-433
Number of pages5
JournalNeurocritical care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Bithalamic hyperintensity
  • Dural arteriovenous fistula
  • Thalamic dementia
  • Venous hypertension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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