Primary central nervous system vasculitis presenting with intracranial hemorrhage

Arthritis Rheum. 2011 Nov;63(11):3598-606. doi: 10.1002/art.30594.


Objective: To describe a subset of cases in a large retrospectively identified cohort of patients with primary central nervous system vasculitis (PCNSV) who present with intracranial hemorrhage.

Methods: The study consisted of a cohort of 131 consecutive patients with PCNSV who were seen at the Mayo Clinic over a 25-year period from 1983 to 2007. The diagnosis of PCNSV was based on findings of brain or spinal cord biopsy, cerebral angiography, or both. Intracranial hemorrhage at presentation was defined as the presence of intracerebral or subarachnoid hemorrhage on computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain within 3 months of the date of PCNSV diagnosis. The clinical, laboratory, radiologic, and pathologic findings, therapy, and outcomes in patients presenting with intracranial hemorrhage were compared with those without intracranial hemorrhage.

Results: Sixteen patients (12.2%) had evidence of intracranial hemorrhage at or near the time of diagnosis. Twelve patients had intracerebral hemorrhage, and 4 had subarachnoid hemorrhage. Twelve patients were diagnosed by findings on angiography and 4 by findings on CNS biopsy. Compared with the 115 patients without intracranial hemorrhage, the 16 patients presenting with intracranial hemorrhage were more frequently women, less frequently had altered cognition, a persistent neurologic deficit, or stroke at presentation, less frequently had MRI evidence of cerebral infarctions, and less frequently needed therapy at last followup. A necrotizing histopathologic pattern of vasculitis was observed in 3 of the 4 patients with positive biopsy findings (75%).

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that intracranial hemorrhage may not be an infrequent occurrence in early PCNSV. Necrotizing vasculitis may be a predominant histopathologic pattern.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebral Angiography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / diagnostic imaging
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vasculitis, Central Nervous System / complications*
  • Vasculitis, Central Nervous System / diagnostic imaging