Spontaneous occult intracranial hypotension precipitating life-threatening cerebral venous thrombosis: Case report

Avital Perry, Christopher S. Graffeo, Waleed Brinjikji, William R. Copeland, Alejandro A. Rabinstein, Michael J. Link

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Spontaneous intracranial hypotension (SIH) is an uncommon headache etiology, typically attributable to an unprovoked occult spinal CSF leak. Although frequently benign, serious complications may occur, including cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT). The objective of this study was to examine a highly complicated case of CVT attributable to SIH as a lens for understanding the heterogeneous literature on this rare complication, and to provide useful, evidence-based, preliminary clinical recommendations. A 43-year-old man presented with 1 week of headache, dizziness, and nausea, which precipitously evolved to hemiplegia. CT venography confirmed CVT, and therapeutic heparin was initiated. He suffered a generalized seizure due to left parietal hemorrhage, which subsequently expanded. He developed signs of mass effect and herniation, heparin was discontinued, and he was taken to the operating room for clot evacuation and external ventricular drain placement. Intraoperatively, the dura was deflated, suggesting underlying SIH. Ventral T-1 CSF leak was identified, which failed multiple epidural blood patches and required primary repair. The patient ultimately made a complete recovery. Systematic review identified 29 publications describing 36 cases of SIH-associated CVT. Among 31 patients for whom long-term neurological outcome was reported, 25 (81%) recovered completely. Underlying coagulopathy/risk factors were identified in 11 patients (31%). CVT is a rare and potentially lethal sequela occurring in 2% of SIH cases. Awareness of the condition is poor, risking morbid complications. Evaluation and treatment should be directed toward identification and treatment of occult CSF leaks. Encouragingly, good neurological outcomes can be achieved through vigilant multidisciplinary neurosurgical and neurocritical care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-678
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Cerebral venous thrombosis
  • Cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • Epidural blood patch
  • Neurocritical care
  • Spontaneous intracranial hypotension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Spontaneous occult intracranial hypotension precipitating life-threatening cerebral venous thrombosis: Case report'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this