Do steroids worsen reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome?

Glucocorticoid-associated worsening in reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome

Singhal AB, Topcuoglu MA.

Neurology 2016; pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003510 (Epub ahead of print).



Factors predicting poor outcome in patients with the reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS) have not been identified.


In this single-center retrospective study, we analyzed the clinical, brain imaging, and angiography data in 162 patients with RCVS. Univariable and multivariable regression analysis were performed to identify predictors of persistent (nontransient) clinical worsening, radiologic worsening, early angiographic progression, and poor discharge outcome (modified Rankin Scale score 4-6).


The mean age was 44 ± 13 years; 78% of patients were women. Persistent clinical worsening occurred in 14% at 6.6 ± 4.1 days after symptom onset, radiologic worsening in 27% (mainly new infarcts), and angiographic progression in 15%. Clinical worsening correlated with angiographic progression and new nonhemorrhagic lesions. Age and sex did not independently predict any type of worsening. Infarction on baseline imaging predicted poor outcome. Prior serotonergic antidepressant use predicted clinical and angiographic worsening but not poor outcome. Intra-arterial vasodilator therapy independently predicted clinical worsening and poor discharge outcome but was offered to more severe cases. Glucocorticoid treatment proved to be an independent predictor of clinical, imaging, and angiographic worsening and poor outcome. Of the 23 patients with clinical worsening, 17 received glucocorticoids (15 within the preceding 2 days). There were no significant differences in baseline brain lesions and angiographic abnormalities between glucocorticoid-treated and untreated patients.


Patients with RCVS at risk for worsening can be identified on basis of baseline features. Iatrogenic factors such as glucocorticoid exposure may contribute to worsening.

This reference is now included in the neurochecklist:

Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS): management


Abstract link

By BruceBlaus - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
By BruceBlausOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

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