Intracranial Atherosclerosis Versus Primary Angiitis of the Central Nervous System: a Case Report

Cureus. 2018 Jul 23;10(7):e3031. doi: 10.7759/cureus.3031.


Primary angiitis of the central nervous system (PACNS) is a rare disease with various clinical presentations. It is the preferred name for vasculitis that is confined to the central nervous system (CNS) and is often considered a diagnosis of exclusion in vascular or inflammatory CNS diseases. This case describes a 46-year-old right-handed female with a past medical history of hypertension (HTN), hyperlipidemia (HLD), diabetes mellitus type two (DM2), obesity, and hemorrhagic stroke who was transferred from an outside facility after a one-month hospitalization to be evaluated for CNS vasculitis. Emergency medical personnel who brought the patient to the receiving hospital endorsed dysarthria and fluctuating level of cognition. Before she was transferred, the patient underwent a series of computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging and angiographies (MRI/MRA) as well as four-vessel angiography. The studies revealed multiple bilateral striatal and cortical infarcts, scattered narrowing and occlusion of major cerebral vasculature, as well as other signs initially more suggestive of intracranial atherosclerosis than CNS vasculitis. Before she was transferred, imaging demonstrated a new cortical stroke. Hypercoagulable studies were positive for protein C deficiency although ensuing echocardiograms with normal ejection fractions were negative for a source of cardioembolism. Having undergone extensive rheumatological, radiological, and neurosurgical evaluation in the receiving facility, recommendations were made for the patient to undergo leptomeningeal biopsy to confirm the diagnosis of vasculopathy and to specifically rule out intracranial atherosclerosis and reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS).

Keywords: cerebral angiography; cns vasculitis; intracranial atherosclerosis; magnetic resonance angiography; primary angiitis of the central nervous system; reversible cerebral vasoconstriction disorder; vasculitis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports