Cerebral venous sinus thrombosis is a challenging condition because of its variability of clinical symptoms and signs. It is very often unrecognised at initial presentation. All age groups can be affected. Large sinuses such as the superior sagittal sinus are most frequently involved. Extensive collateral circulation within the cerebral venous system allows for a significant degree of compensation in the early stages of thrombus formation. Systemic inflammatory diseases and inherited as well as acquired coagulation disorders are frequent causes, although in up to 30% of cases no underlying cause can be identified. The oral contraceptive pill appears to be an important additional risk factor. The spectrum of clinical presentations ranges from headache with papilloedema to focal deficit, seizures and coma. Magnetic resonance imaging with venography is the investigation of choice; computed tomography alone will miss a significant number of cases. It has now been conclusively shown that intravenous heparin is the first-line treatment for cerebral venous sinus thrombosis because of its efficacy, safety and feasability. Local thrombolysis may be indicated in cases of deterioration, despite adequate heparinisation. This should be followed by oral anticoagulation for 3-6 months. The prognosis of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis is generally favourable. A high index of clinical suspicion is needed to diagnose this uncommon condition so that appropriate treatment can be initiated.
- cerebral venous sinus thrombosis
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