Non-traumatic cortical subarachnoid haemorrhage: diagnostic work-up and aetiological background

Neuroradiology. 2005 Jul;47(7):525-31. doi: 10.1007/s00234-005-1384-6. Epub 2005 Jun 22.


Only 15% of all subarachnoid haemorrhages (SAHs) are not of aneurysmal origin. Among those, circumscribed SAHs along the cortical convexity are rare and have only been described in singular case reports so far. Here, we present a collection of 12 cases of SAH along the convexity, of non-traumatic origin. Over a period of 10 years, 12 cases of circumscribed SAH along the convexity were identified at our clinic. The clinical presentations, neuroradiological SAH characteristics, further diagnostic work-up to identify the underlying aetiologies, the therapy and clinical outcome were analysed. The patients' chief complaints were unspecific cephalgia, focal or generalised seizures and focal neurological deficits. Typical signs of basal SAH, such as nuchal rigidity, thunderclap-headache or alteration of consciousness, were rare. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and digital subtraction angiography (DSA) revealed different aetiologies, namely postpartal posterior encephalopathy (three), cerebral vasculitis (two), dural sinus thrombosis (two), cortical venous thrombosis (one), intracerebral abscesses (one) and cerebral cavernoma (one). Two cases remained unresolved. Treatment of the underlying disease and symptomatic medication led to good clinical outcome in almost all cases. On the basis of these findings, we demonstrate that the clinical presentation, localisation and aetiology of cortical SAH differ clearly from other SAHs. A diagnostic work-up with MRI and eventually DSA is essential. Mostly, the causative disease can be identified, and specific treatment allows a favourable outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Angiography, Digital Subtraction
  • Brain Diseases / complications*
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cerebral Angiography
  • Cerebral Veins
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / complications
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sinus Thrombosis, Intracranial / complications
  • Sinus Thrombosis, Intracranial / diagnosis
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / etiology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Vasculitis / complications
  • Vasculitis / diagnosis
  • Venous Thrombosis / complications
  • Venous Thrombosis / diagnosis