Clinical features, diagnostic findings, and treatment of Susac syndrome: a case series

J Neurol Sci. 2015 Oct 15;357(1-2):50-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2015.06.063. Epub 2015 Jul 2.


Background: Susac syndrome (SS) is a rare, presumed autoimmune condition characterized by the clinical triad of branch retinal artery occlusions (BRAOs), encephalopathy, and sensorineural hearing loss. The aim of this study was to evaluate clinical features, diagnostic results, treatment, and outcomes in SS.

Methods: Five patients with SS were referred to three tertiary care centers in Boston. The observation period across these patients was 7-57months.

Results: At initial presentation, none of the patients demonstrated the complete triad of BRAO, sensorineural hearing loss, and encephalopathy. The interval between symptom onset and diagnosis of SS was 4-30weeks. Brain MRI findings thought to be characteristic of SS (including callosal fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) hyperintense and T1 hypointense lesions) were frequently absent. Microinfarcts noted on diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), BRAOs and vessel wall hyperfluorescence on fluorescein angiography (FA) were present in all cases in the acute encephalopathic phase. All patients treated with glucocorticoids and intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIg) alone experienced further clinical progression until additional immunosuppressive therapy was instituted.

Conclusions: The rarity of SS, its incomplete and variable presentation, and the nonspecific imaging findings invariably led to delayed diagnosis. DWI and FA should be used to identify the acute microvascular injury and monitor treatment response. Immunomodulatory agents more potent than glucocorticoids and IVIg might be required to control the disease.

Keywords: Branch retinal artery occlusion; Encephalopathy; Fluorescein angiography; Hearing loss; MRI; Susac syndrome; Visual impairment.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Female
  • Fluorescein Angiography
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous / therapeutic use*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Susac Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Susac Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Susac Syndrome / pathology
  • Symptom Assessment
  • Young Adult


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous
  • Immunosuppressive Agents