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Wouter I. Schievink, Franklin G. Moser, M. Marcel Maya and Ravi S. Prasad

OBJECTIVE

In most patients with spontaneous intracranial hypotension, a spinal CSF leak can be found, but occasionally, no leak can be demonstrated despite extensive spinal imaging. Failure to localize a CSF leak limits treatment options. The authors recently reported the discovery of CSF-venous fistulas in patients with spontaneous intracranial hypotension and now report on the use of digital subtraction myelography in patients with spontaneous intracranial hypotension but no CSF leak identifiable on conventional spinal imaging (i.e., non–digital subtraction myelography).

METHODS

The patient population consisted of 53 consecutive patients with spontaneous intracranial hypotension who underwent digital subtraction myelography but in whom no spinal CSF leak (i.e., presence of extradural CSF) was identifiable on conventional spinal imaging.

RESULTS

The mean age of the 33 women and 20 men was 53.4 years (range 29–71 years). A CSF-venous fistula was demonstrated in 10 (19%) of the 53 patients. A CSF-venous fistula was found in 9 (27%) of the 33 women and in 1 (5%) of the 20 men (p = 0.0697). One patient was treated successfully with percutaneous injection of fibrin sealant. Nine patients underwent surgery for the fistula. Surgery resulted in complete resolution of symptoms in 8 patients (follow-up 7–25 months), and in 1 patient, symptoms recurred after 4 months.

CONCLUSIONS

In this study, the authors found a CSF-venous fistula in approximately one-fifth of the patients with recalcitrant spontaneous intracranial hypotension but no CSF leak identifiable on conventional spinal imaging. The authors suggest that digital subtraction myelography be considered in this patient population.