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What is Cerebral Venous Thrombosis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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Cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) is a neurological condition in which a clot in one of the blood vessels in the brain impedes the free flow of blood. Classically, CVT occurs in the dural venous sinuses which drain blood from the brain. Patients with this condition commonly develop stroke-like symptoms such as confusion, weakness, and dizziness, and they can also experience vision problems and headaches, including severe headaches of sudden onset known as thunderclap headaches. Like other neurological conditions, the prognosis improves when the patient receives treatment early.

The causes of cerebral venous thrombosis are variable. In some cases, the condition is a complication of a disease or injury. Patients with certain diseases and injuries are more at risk of developing cerebral venous thrombosis, and their doctors may monitor them for early signs of thrombosis. At other times, the condition appears to be spontaneous in nature, but a doctor will usually recommend diagnostic testing and investigation to see if a cause can be determined, as it may be necessary to treat the cause to resolve the thrombosis.

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Having a headache tends to make it easier to diagnose cerebral venous thrombosis, but headaches do not present in all patients. People should definitely take note of neurological changes they observe in themselves and others, so that prompt diagnosis and treatment can be provided for neurological disorders such as CVT. Neurologists would usually prefer to see a patient without a problem and pronounce a clean bill of health than to see a patient too late because someone was afraid of bothering the doctor.

When patients develop the symptoms of cerebral venous thrombosis, several diagnostic tools can be used to accurately diagnose the patient. In a neurological exam, a doctor can confirm that a patient is having a neurological problem and learn more about the location of the problem. Imaging studies of the brain can reveal occlusions and other abnormalities which can be used to create a more complete diagnostic picture of the patient. Arteriograms, in which the blood vessels are studied, can be especially useful.

The recommended treatment for cerebral venous thrombosis is the administration of anticoagulant medications. These medications will break up the clot, allowing blood to flow through the blood vessels again. A doctor may also recommend vasodilators which will widen the blood vessels. Once the patient shows signs of improvement, another imaging study may be ordered to confirm that the clot has been resolved.

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