Thrombolytics for cerebral sinus thrombosis: a systematic review

Cerebrovasc Dis. 2003;15(3):159-66. doi: 10.1159/000068833.


Background and purpose: The use of thrombolytics is frequently mentioned in patients with cerebral venous or dural sinus thrombosis (CVDST) who deteriorate despite anticoagulant therapy. The aim of this review was to collect all the published information about their use in CVDST and to assess their efficacy and safety.

Methods: To find cases of CVDST treated with thrombolytics, we performed a MEDLINE search from 1966 to July 2001, checked all reference lists of studies found and hand searched volumes of 11 journals. Data was extracted by means of a standardised data extraction form. Proportions and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated for outcomes and complications of thrombolytics. Cases were stratified according to variables that may influence the outcome and subgroups were compared by odds ratios and 95% CI.

Results: No randomised clinical trial (RCT) was found. Seventy-two studies (169 patients) were included. Urokinase was the thrombolytic most frequently administered (76%). In the majority of cases the thrombolytic was locally infused in the occluded sinus (88%). At discharge, 10 cases (7%; 95% CI 3-12%) were dependent and 9 cases (5%; 95% CI 2-9%) died. Intracranial haemorrhages occurred in 17% of cases. In 5% they were associated with clinical deterioration. Extracranial haemorrhages occurred in 21%, but only 2% required blood transfusion.

Conclusions: Thrombolytics appeared to be reasonably safe in CVDST, but its efficacy cannot be assessed from the published data. Considering that CVDST is an uncommon disease, a randomised controlled trial to assess effectiveness and safety of local thrombolytics in cases of CVDST with poor prognosis is difficult but not impossible to undertake, on a multicentre international collaboration trial.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Fibrinolysis
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / adverse effects
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Hemorrhage / chemically induced
  • Hemorrhage / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Sinus Thrombosis, Intracranial / complications
  • Sinus Thrombosis, Intracranial / diagnosis
  • Sinus Thrombosis, Intracranial / drug therapy*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Fibrinolytic Agents