Spontaneous Intracranial Hypotension: 10 Myths and Misperceptions

Headache. 2018 Jul;58(7):948-959. doi: 10.1111/head.13328. Epub 2018 May 24.


Objective: To discuss common myths and misperceptions about spontaneous intracranial hypotension (SIH), focusing on common issues related to diagnosis and treatment, and to review the evidence that contradicts and clarifies these myths.

Background: Recognition of SIH has increased in recent years. With increasing recognition, however, has come an increased demand for management by neurologists and headache specialists, some of whom have little prior experience with the condition. This dearth of practical experience, and lack of awareness of recent investigations into SIH, produces heterogeneity in diagnostic and treatment pathways, driven in part by outdated, confusing, or unsubstantiated conceptions of the condition. We sought to address this heterogeneity by identifying 10 myths and misperceptions that we frequently encounter when receiving referrals for suspected or confirmed SIH, and to review the literature addressing these topics.

Methods: Ten topics relevant to diagnosis and treatment SIH were generated by the authors. A search for studies addressing SIH was conducted using PubMed and EMBASE, limited to English language only, peer reviewed publications from inception to 2018. Individual case reports were excluded. The resulting studies were reviewed for relevance to the topics in question.

Results: The search generated 557 studies addressing SIH; 75 case reports were excluded. Fifty-four studies were considered to be of high relevance to the topics addressed, and were included in the data synthesis. The topics are presented in the form of a narrative review.

Conclusions: The understanding of SIH has evolved over the recent decades, leading to improvements in knowledge about the pathophysiology of the condition, diagnostic strategies, and expanded treatments. Awareness of these changes, and dispelling outdated misconceptions about SIH, is critical to providing appropriate care for patients and guiding future investigations going forward.

Keywords: CSF hypovolemia; cerebrospinal fluid leak; cerebrospinal fluid pressure; orthostatic headache; spontaneous intracranial hypotension.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Pressure*
  • Headache* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Hypotension / complications
  • Intracranial Hypotension / diagnosis*
  • Intracranial Hypotension / physiopathology
  • Intracranial Hypotension / therapy*