Pulmonary embolus from acute superior sagittal sinus thrombosis secondary to skull fracture: case report

Neurosurgery. 2011 Jun;68(6):E1756-60; discussion E1760. doi: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e3182171439.


Background and importance: Pulmonary embolus (PE) occurring concurrent with-and as a result of-traumatic superior sagittal sinus thrombosis (SSST) has never before been reported. We report the first case of a patient who presented with acute traumatic SSST and concomitant PE.

Clinical presentation: A 30-year-old man presented with altered mental status after a motorcycle collision, and subsequently developed respiratory distress. Computed tomography (CT) scanning of the head revealed multiple calvarial and skull base fractures, contusions, and hemorrhages. Air was noted within the superior sagittal sinus, indicating a fracture involving the sinus and suggesting thrombus formation. A chest CT scan obtained at the time of presentation revealed a PE in the right pulmonary artery. The patient had no personal or family history of hypercoagulability, and all coagulation study results were within normal limits. Work-up revealed no evidence of long bone fractures or deep venous thrombosis. Initial intervention involved placement of an external ventricular drain, brain tissue oxygen saturation probe, internal jugular venous oxygen saturation monitor, arterial line, and central venous line with extensive treatment of all abnormal values according to established standards. Ultimately, pentobarbital coma was initiated for persistently elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) refractory to conservative measures. Aggressive pulmonary resuscitation was required to maintain adequate oxygenation. Anticoagulation was begun 3 weeks after admission.

Conclusion: Our patient had good neurological recovery. This report highlights the possibility of acute PE in the setting of traumatic SSST.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motorcycles
  • Pulmonary Embolism / etiology*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Embolism / therapy
  • Sagittal Sinus Thrombosis / etiology*
  • Sagittal Sinus Thrombosis / physiopathology
  • Sagittal Sinus Thrombosis / therapy
  • Skull Fractures / complications*
  • Superior Sagittal Sinus / pathology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed