A new procedure for pseudotumor cerebri

A new treatment for pseudotumour cerebri was reported by a team of interventional neuroradiologists and neurosurgeons. Pseudotumour cerebri is a rare condition, which manifests itself by increased pressure in the head, leading to severe headaches, vision impairment and even complete loss of vision and brain damage. It affects more women than men and usually occurs without an obvious trigger, although pregnancy, obesity, and certain medications increase the risk of developing this condition. The diagnosis is made by performing a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) and measuring cerebrospinal fluid pressure. Typical MRI scan findings (narrowing of the ventricles – cerebrospinal fluid filled spaces in the brain) and finding of swollen optic nerves (papilledema)on eye exam confirm this diagnosis.

The new treatment is based on the theory that narrowing of a vein located at the back of the brain is the underlying cause, although this theory remains controversial. Narrowing of this vein is thought to reduce drainage of the cerebrospinal fluid from inside the brain, leading to build up of this fluid and increased pressure inside the skull. The usual treatments for pseudotumor include weight loss, medications that reduce pressure, such as acetazolamide (Diamox), and the surgical placement of a shunt to continuously drain spinal fluid from the brain, thus reducing the pressure.

The study, published in the online edition of the Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology, shows that lowering pressure inside the vein alleviates the condition and improves vision. The doctors at Johns Hopkins used an advanced ultrasound scanner to thread an expandable metal stent through a vein in the groin, all the way to the transverse sinus, one of the main veins inside the skull draining fluid from the brain.

The study involved only 12 patients, but all of them had immediate relief of their headaches and 10 had lasting improvement. The researchers admitted that the efficacy of this treatment needs to be confirmed in a larger group of patients.

Art credit: JulieMauskop.com

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