Susac syndrome: clinical characteristics and treatment in 29 new cases


Farrah J. Mateen, Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Pathology Building, Room 627, 600 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA (tel.: +410 935 5181; fax: +410 502 6736; e-mail:


Background and purpose:  There are few clinical studies on the attempted treatments and outcomes in patients with Susac syndrome (SS) (retinocochleocerebral vasculopathy).

Methods:  A retrospective review was performed of all patients presenting with SS at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA (1 January 1998–1 October 2011).

Results:  There were 29 cases of SS (24 women, mean age at presentation, 35 years; range, 19–65; full triad of brain, eye, and ear involvement, n = 16; mean follow-up time, 29 months). Thirty CSF analyses were performed in 27 cases (mean protein 130 mg/dl, range 35–268; mean cell count 14, range 1–86). MRI of the brain showed corpus callosal involvement (79%), T2-weighted hyperintensities (93%), and gadolinium enhancement (50%). Average lowest modified Rankin Scale score was 2.5 (median 2, range 0–5). Most patients (93%) received immunosuppressive treatment, with a mean time to treatment of 2 months following symptomatic onset. Treatments included intravenous methylprednisolone or dexamethasone (n = 23), oral corticosteroids (n = 24), plasma exchange (PLEX) (n = 9), intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) (n = 15), cyclophosphamide (n = 6), mycophenolate mofetil (n = 5), azathioprine (n = 2), and rituximab (n = 1). Most patients also received an antiplatelet agent (n = 21). Improvement or stabilization was noted in eight of 11 cases treated with IVIg in the acute period (three experienced at least partial deterioration) and eight of nine cases of PLEX treatment (one lost to follow up).

Conclusions:  Susac syndrome may be severe, disabling, and protracted in some patients. PLEX may be an adjunct or alternative therapy for patients who do not experience symptomatic improvement following steroid treatment.