Background: The role of the extracranial venous system in the pathology of central nervous system (CNS) disorders and aging is largely unknown. It is acknowledged that the development of the venous system is subject to many variations and that these variations do not necessarily represent pathological findings. The idea has been changing with regards to the extracranial venous system.
Discussion: A range of extracranial venous abnormalities have recently been reported, which could be classified as structural/morphological, hemodynamic/functional and those determined only by the composite criteria and use of multimodal imaging. The presence of these abnormalities usually disrupts normal blood flow and is associated with the development of prominent collateral circulation. The etiology of these abnormalities may be related to embryologic developmental arrest, aging or other comorbidities. Several CNS disorders have been linked to the presence and severity of jugular venous reflux. Another composite criteria-based vascular condition named chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) was recently introduced. CCSVI is characterized by abnormalities of the main extracranial cerebrospinal venous outflow routes that may interfere with normal venous outflow.
Summary: Additional research is needed to better define the role of the extracranial venous system in relation to CNS disorders and aging. The use of endovascular treatment for the correction of these extracranial venous abnormalities should be discouraged, until potential benefit is demonstrated in properly-designed, blinded, randomized and controlled clinical trials.