Dural sac shrinkage signs on magnetic resonance imaging at the thoracic level in spontaneous intracranial hypotension

Acta Neurochirurgica (2021) 163:2685–2694

Spontaneous intracranial hypotension (SIH) is secondary to a cerebrospinal fluid leak at the spinal level without obvious causative events. Several signs on brain and cervical spine magnetic resonance (MR) imaging (MRI) have been associated with SIH but can be equivocal or negative. This retrospective study sought to identify characteristic SIH signs on thoracic spinal MRI.

Methods Cranial and spinal MR images of 27 consecutive patients with classic SIH symptoms, who eventually received epidural autologous blood patches (EBPs), were analyzed.

Results The most prevalent findings on T2-weighted MRI at the thoracic level were anterior shift of the spinal cord (96.3%) and dorsal dura mater (81.5%), probably caused by dural sac shrinkage. These dural sac shrinkage signs (DSSS) were frequently accompanied by cerebrospinal fluid collection in the posterior epidural space (77.8%) and a prominent epidural venous plexus (77.8%). These findings disappeared in all six patients who underwent post-EBP spinal MRI. Dural enhancement and brain sagging were minimum or absent on the cranial MR images of seven patients, although DSSS were obvious in these seven patients. For 23 patients with SIH and 28 healthy volunteers, a diagnostic test using thoracic MRI was performed by 13 experts to validate the usefulness of DSSS. The median sensitivity, specificity, positive-predictive value, negative-predictive value, and accuracy of the DSSS were high (range, 0.913–0.931).

Conclusions Detection of DSSS on thoracic MRI facilitates an SIH diagnosis without the use of invasive imaging modalities. The DSSS were positive even in patients in whom classic cranial MRI signs for SIH were equivocal or minimal.