Ten year clinical experience with stroke and cerebral vasculitis

Peter A. Kempster, Catriona A. McLean, Thanh G. Phan

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Angiitis of the central nervous system (CNS) is difficult to diagnose but potentially fatal. When stroke occurs in a younger individual or is associated with multiple infarcts on imaging, clinicians must decide how far to pursue a possible diagnosis of vasculitis. The aim of this study is to establish the prevalence of primary and secondary cerebral angiitis among patients presenting with stroke. Hospital attendances over a 10 year period were surveyed by searching for diagnostic codes and key words specific for cerebral vasculitis/angiitis. Case notes were reviewed by the authors using two sets of criteria for angiitis of the CNS. Thirty-two patients were initially considered likely to have cerebral angiitis by treating physicians. Thirteen had been admitted to hospital with stroke. During this period, there were 7475 admissions for ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke. Six patients had a final diagnosis of vasculitic stroke but only one had definite CNS angiitis with a first presentation as ischaemic stroke (0.02%). Most patients who did have cerebral vasculitis developed multifocal or subacute neurological deficits, or already had an immunological disorder known to be associated with secondary CNS angiitis. Of 19 patients given an alternative final diagnosis, the most common were atherosclerotic/embolic cerebrovascular disease (n = 9) and reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (n = 7). Stroke is rarely the first manifestation of cerebral vasculitis. Our findings suggest that routine screening for angiitis in stroke patients may not be warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-125
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • Angiitis
  • Brain biopsy
  • Diagnosis
  • Stroke
  • Vasculitis
  • Vasoconstriction

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