Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS) in antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APLA): the role of centrally acting vasodilators. Case series and review of literature

Clin Rheumatol. 2014 Dec;33(12):1829-33. doi: 10.1007/s10067-013-2434-9. Epub 2013 Nov 26.


Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS) is Raynaud's phenomenon of the brain. Changes in neurological function are dependent upon which areas of the brain are deprived of normal blood flow. Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APLA) is a common cause of Raynaud's phenomenon that can occur anywhere in the body, including the brain. Management of CNS vasospasm generally involves the use of centrally acting calcium channel blockers, which have been shown to relieve the associated headaches and transient neurological symptoms associated with it. Three patients with APLA and RCVS from our clinics are illustrated. It is demonstrated that the use of centrally acting calcium channel-blocking drugs, such as nimodipine, which prevent and reverse CNS vasospasm, led to clinical improvement in our patients over the course of 5-9 years. All of them had MRIs done at the initiation of therapy and 5-9 years after being on therapy. MRI measures of T2 lesion volumes (LVs) and number were obtained. All three patients had a good response in controlling clinical symptoms related to CNS vasospasm, Raynaud's phenomenon, visual disturbances, confusion, headaches, and hearing loss. There was also a resolution in the MRI findings of these patients. This case series of three patients shows a clinical improvement and decrease in T2 LV and number in patients with APLA and Raynaud's syndrome on centrally acting calcium channel blockers. RCVS is much more common than that currently appreciated. APLA is the common cause of RCVS. Further studies are needed to determine the optimal methods to diagnose RCVS and optimal therapies to treat it.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Anticardiolipin / chemistry
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome / complications*
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Nimodipine / administration & dosage
  • Syndrome
  • Vascular Diseases / complications*
  • Vasoconstriction*
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Antibodies, Anticardiolipin
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Nimodipine