Superior sagittal sinus thrombosis and pulmonary embolism: a syndrome rediscovered

Acta Neurol Scand. 1992 Oct;86(4):390-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.1992.tb05106.x.


Pulmonary emboli as a fatal complication of superior sagittal sinus thrombosis was once well recognized in the literature but appears to have been forgotten. The sagittal sinus appeared to be the source of pulmonary emboli in previously reported cases. Even in patients with no evidence of systemic thrombosis, but who have sagittal sinus thrombosis, the possibility of dislodging pulmonary emboli should be strongly considered. We report a case of nontraumatic sagittal sinus thrombosis complicated by multiple pulmonary emboli and a fatal saddle embolism, likely originating from the thrombosed sinus. Our review of the literature between 1942 and 1990 yielded 203 cases of intracranial venous thrombosis. The overall mortality rate was 49.3%. In 23 cases (11.3%), the venous sinus thrombosis was associated with pulmonary emboli and in these the overall mortality rate was 95.6%. In the 203 cases in our review, those patients who received anticoagulation therapy also had a statistically significant better outcome. Therefore, the presence of pulmonary emboli in association with sagittal sinus thrombosis mandates a sober assessment of the need of anticoagulation therapy in the absence of obvious contraindication.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Contraceptives, Oral / administration & dosage
  • Contraceptives, Oral / adverse effects
  • Cranial Sinuses / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neurologic Examination / drug effects
  • Pulmonary Artery / pathology
  • Pulmonary Embolism / chemically induced
  • Pulmonary Embolism / complications*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / pathology
  • Sinus Thrombosis, Intracranial / chemically induced
  • Sinus Thrombosis, Intracranial / complications*
  • Sinus Thrombosis, Intracranial / pathology
  • Syndrome
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Contraceptives, Oral