Challenges in diagnosis of isolated central nervous system vasculitis


Amy W. Amara, M.D., Ph.D, 1530 3rd Ave. S., SC 360, Birmingham, AL 35294-0017. Phone: 205 934-0683. Fax: 205 996-4039; E-mail:


Isolated central nervous system (CNS) vasculitis is a rare and complicated disorder. Patients typically present with nonspecific neurologic symptoms such as headache and encephalopathy, and have variable progression and severity of the disease. Challenges to definitive diagnosis include the limitations of currently available diagnostic modalities with high likelihood of false-positive or false-negative findings. Imaging, serologic, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) evaluation, and even angiography can fail to establish the diagnosis. Often, brain biopsy is required. In order to illustrate these challenges, we report the case of a patient who presented with subacute cognitive decline and was ultimately diagnosed with isolated CNS eosinophilic vasculitis. Initial work-up included CSF and serologic analyses, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and cerebral angiography, but definitive diagnosis required brain biopsy. Immunosuppressive therapy resulted in clinical improvement and stabilization. To our knowledge, only one other case of isolated CNS eosinophilic vasculitis has been reported in the literature. We discuss the importance of a high index of clinical suspicion in cases of progressive nonspecific neurologic symptoms.