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Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 2006 Aug;32(3):465-90.

Cerebral manifestations in the antiphospholipid (Hughes) syndrome.

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Department of Rheumatology, Homerton University Hospital, London E9 6SR, United Kingdom.


The importance of cerebral disease in patients with the Hughes syndrome is now becoming more widely recognized. The range of neuropsychiatric manifestations of APS is comprehensive, and includes focal symptoms attributable to lesions in a specific area of the brain as well as diffuse or global dysfunction. Patients with APS frequently present with strokes and TIA, but a wide spectrum of other neurologic features-also including non thrombotic neurologic syndromes-has been described in association with the presence of aPL. The recognition of APS has had a profound impact on the understanding and management of the treatment of CNS manifestations associated with connective tissue diseases, in particular, SLE. Many patients with focal neurologic manifestations and aPL, who a few years ago would have received high-dose corticosteroids or immunosuppression, are often successfully treated with anticoagulation. In our opinion, testing for aPL may have a major diagnostic and therapeutic impact not only in patients with autoimmune diseases and neuropsychiatric manifestations, but also in young individuals who develop cerebral ischemia, in those with atypical multiple sclerosis, transverse myelitis, and atypical seizures. We would also recommend testing for aPL for young individuals found with multiple hyperintensity lesions on brain MRI in the absence of other possible causes,especially when under the age of 40 years. It is our practice to anticoagulate patients with aPL suffering from cerebral ischemia with a target INR of 3.0 to prevent recurrences. Low-dose aspirin alone (with occasional exceptions)does not seem helpful to prevent recurrent thrombosis in these patients. Our recommendation, once the patient has had a proven thrombosis associated with aPL, is long-term (possibly life-long) warfarin therapy. Oral anti coagulation carries a risk of hemorrhage, but in our experience the risk of serious bleeding in patients with APS and previous thrombosis treated with oral anticoagulation to a target INR of 3.5 was similar to that in groups of patients treated with lower target ratios. Although a double-blind crossover trial comparing low molecular weight heparin with placebo in patients with aPL and chronic headaches did not show a significant difference in the beneficial effect of low molecular weight heparin versus placebo, in our experience selected patients with aPL and neuropsychiatric manifestations such as seizures, severe cognitive dys-function, and intractable headaches unresponsive to conventional treatment may respond to anticoagulant treatment. The neurologic ramifications of Hughes syndrome are extensive, and it behoves clinicians in all specialties to be aware of this syndrome because treatment with anticoagulation may profoundly change the outlook for these patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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