A proposed framework for cerebral venous congestion

Neuroradiol J. 2022 Feb;35(1):94-111. doi: 10.1177/19714009211029261. Epub 2021 Jul 5.


Background: While venous congestion in the peripheral vasculature has been described and accepted, intracranial venous congestion remains poorly understood. The characteristics, pathophysiology, and management of cerebral venous stasis, venous hypertension and venous congestion remain controversial, and a unifying conceptual schema is absent. The cerebral venous and lymphatic systems are part of a complex and dynamic interaction between the intracranial compartments, with interplay between the parenchyma, veins, arteries, cerebrospinal fluid, and recently characterized lymphatic-like systems in the brain. Each component contributes towards intracranial pressure, occupying space within the fixed calvarial volume. This article proposes a framework to consider conditions resulting in brain and neck venous congestion, and seeks to expedite further study of cerebral venous diagnoses, mechanisms, symptomatology, and treatments.

Methods: A multi-institution retrospective review was performed to identify unique patient cases, complemented with a published case series to assess a spectrum of disease states with components of venous congestion affecting the brain. These diseases were organized according to anatomical location and purported mechanisms. Outcomes of treatments were also analyzed. Illustrative cases were identified in the venous treatment databases of the authors.

Conclusion: This framework is the first clinically structured description of venous pathologies resulting in intracranial venous and cerebrospinal fluid hypertension. Our proposed system highlights unique clinical symptoms and features critical for appropriate diagnostic work-up and potential treatment. This novel schema allows clinicians effectively to approach cases of intracranial hypertension secondary to venous etiologies, and furthermore provides a framework by which researchers can better understand this developing area of cerebrovascular disease.

Keywords: Venous; dural sinus stenosis; intracranial hypertension; neurointerventional.

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Veins* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Hyperemia*
  • Intracranial Hypertension* / diagnostic imaging
  • Intracranial Pressure
  • Retrospective Studies