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Cerebrovasc Dis. 2014;37(1):43-50. doi: 10.1159/000356840. Epub 2013 Dec 18.

Systemic thrombolysis for cerebral venous and dural sinus thrombosis: a systematic review.

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Department of Neurosciences (Neurology), Hospital de Santa Maria, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal.



The use of thrombolytics is frequently considered in patients with cerebral venous and dural sinus thrombosis (CVT) who deteriorate despite anticoagulant therapy.


To collect all the published information about the use of systemic thrombolysis in CVT in order to assess its efficacy and safety.


We performed a PubMed search, checked all reference lists of studies found and used data from the International Study on Cerebral Vein and Dural Sinus Thrombosis (ISCVT). Outcome was classified at the last available follow-up by the modified Rankin Scale (mRS). The cases were stratified according to variables that might influence outcome.


A total of 16 reports (26 patients, 2 from the ISCVT and 24 from the systematic review of the literature) were included. No randomized clinical trial was found. Seven patients presented with isolated intracranial hypertension syndrome (26.9%), 17 with encephalopathy (65.4%) and 2 were comatose (7.7%). The superior sagittal sinus was the one most often affected (n = 21; 80.8%), and there was thrombosis of the deep cerebral venous system in 5 patients (19.2%). Urokinase was the thrombolytic agent most frequently administered (n = 19; 73.1%), whereas streptokinase and recombinant tissue plasminogen activator were used in 2 cases each (7.7%). Intracranial hemorrhages occurred in 3 cases (11.5%). Extracranial hemorrhages occurred in 5 cases (19.2%), and overall there were 3 cases of serious bleeding (11.5%), including 2 deaths (7.7%). Partial or complete recanalization was verified in most patients (n = 16; 61.5%). The survival rate was 92.3% (24/26 patients). At the last available follow-up, 22/25 patients regained independency (mRS scores 0-2; 88%), 2/25 died (mRS score 6; 8%) and 1/25 was severely dependent (mRS scores 3-5; 4%).


In all, 88% of the CVT patients treated with systemic thrombolysis regained their independency, but 2 deaths associated with intracranial hemorrhage occurred. The mortality rate and disability at the last available follow-up were similar to those found in 2 previous systematic reviews concerning the use of thrombolytics in CVT. Due to the small sample size and lack of controls, the efficacy of systemic thrombolysis in acute CVT cannot be assessed from the published information. Concerning safety, a nonnegligible proportion of bleedings was reported.

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