Objectives: To compare the clinical, laboratory, and imaging features of patients with reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndromes evaluated at 2 academic centers, compare subgroups, and investigate treatment effects.
Design: Retrospective analysis.
Setting: Massachusetts General Hospital (n = 84) or Cleveland Clinic (n = 55).
Patients: One hundred thirty-nine patients with reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndromes.
Main outcome measures: Clinical, laboratory, and imaging features; treatment; and outcomes.
Results: The mean age was 42.5 years, and 81% were women. Onset with thunderclap headache was documented in 85% and 43% developed neurological deficits. Prior migraine was documented in 40%, vasoconstrictive drug exposure in 42%, and recent pregnancy in 9%. Admission computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging was normal in 55%; however, 81% ultimately developed brain lesions including infarcts (39%), convexity subarachnoid hemorrhage (34%), lobar hemorrhage (20%), and brain edema (38%). Cerebral angiographic abnormalities typically normalized within 2 months. Nearly 90% had good clinical outcome; 9% developed severe deficits; and 2% died. In the combined cohort, calcium channel blocker therapy and symptomatic therapy alone showed no significant effect on outcome; however, glucocorticoid therapy showed a trend for poor outcome (P = .08). Subgroup comparisons based on prior headache status and identified triggers (vasoconstrictive drugs, pregnancy, other) showed no major differences.
Conclusion: Patients with reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndromes have a unique set of clinical imaging features, with no significant differences between subgroups. Prospective studies are warranted to determine the effects of empirical treatment with calcium channel blockers and glucocorticoids.