Value of spontaneous hyperdensity of cerebral venous thrombosis on helical CT

Acta Radiol. 2014 Dec;55(10):1245-52. doi: 10.1177/0284185113513977. Epub 2013 Nov 25.


Background: Excluding a cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) through imaging is a frequent request in the emergency setting. This assessment often starts by an unenhanced brain computed tomography (CT).

Purpose: Re-evaluate the value of spontaneous hyperdensity of CVT on helical unenhanced brain CT.

Methods: Multicentric retrospective study on CVT probability based on visual assessment of spontaneous hyperdensity of cerebral venous system, performed by four blinded radiologists, individually then collectively, on a population including 14 helical unenhanced brain CTs with CVT and 102 unenhanced brain CTs without CVT (all confirmed by CT or magnetic resonance [MR] venography). Exclusion criteria: no DICOM image, symptoms >15 days, CVT indirect signs on unenhanced CT. A fifth radiologist set 768 regions of interest to measure and to compare the density within the normal venous sinuses and the CVTs.

Results: After consensus reading, sensitivity of this sign for CVT diagnosis was 100%, specificity 95.1%, and negative predictive value (NPV) 100%, with high individual NPV (99-100%). Area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve was 0.992 after consensus (0.976-0.986 individually). The spontaneous density was significantly different (P <0.05) between normal sinuses and CVTs, with a density >70 HU reported only within the CVTs, except for the horizontal part of the superior sagittal sinus (hSSS).

Conclusion: The dense triangle sign on helical unenhanced brain CT has an excellent NPV to exclude a sinus thrombosis during the first 2 weeks. However, we believe that visual assessment of spontaneous hyperdensity is not sufficient for the diagnosis of CVT, with possible false-positive of the hSSS on unenhanced CT.

Keywords: Density; intracranial thrombosis; magnetic resonance angiography; multidetector computed tomography; sinus thrombosis; venous thrombosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Thrombosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • ROC Curve
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Spiral Computed / methods*
  • Young Adult