SUNCT Syndrome: Estimation of Cerebral Blood Flow Velocity with Transcranial Doppler Ultrasonography


  • Jie Ming Shen M.D.,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Neurology, Trondheim University Hospital, Trondheim, Norway
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    • 1Permanent address: Department of Neurology, Rui Jin Hospital, Shanghai Second Medical University, Shanghai 200025, China

  • Hans-Jørgen Johnsen M.D.

    1. Department of Neurology, Trondheim University Hospital, Trondheim, Norway
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Address all correspondence to: Jie Ming Shen, M.D., Departments of Neurology, Trondheim University Hospital, N-7006 Trondheim, Norway



Four patients with SUNCT syndrome (Short-lasting, Unilateral, Neuralgiform headache attacks with Conjunctival injection and Tearing) were investigated with Doppler ultra-sonography. Blood flow velocity (V) was measured in all intracranial arteries during both normocapnia and voluntary hyperventilation in 4 patients outside attacks (2 during remission; 2 during bout, but outside attacks) and in 8 healthy individuals. Vasomotor reactivity (VMR) was calculated on the basis of the formula of percentage change in V divided by the reduction in end-tidal PCO2 (PETCO2). Under the basal condition, the patients had a slightly, but non-significantly higher V in the middle cerebral artery (MCA) (P>0.1) and lower V in the basilar artery (P>0.05) than controls. During hyperventilation, a significant reduction in V was observed in the anterior and posterior cerebral arteries, at a level 1.5-2 SD above that in controls (P < 0.05), but a non-significant difference in VMR in comparison with controls. VMCA was continuously insonated during spontaneous (n=8) and precipitated (n=4) attacks in one particular patient on different days. Prior to attack, VMCA was significantly lower on the symptomatic side than on the non-symptomatic side (P <0.014). V MCA decreased significantly during spontaneous attacks on both sides (P < 0.01) in comparison with the pre-attack stage, and returned to baseline before the cessation of attack. Similar findings were made during precipitated attacks. PETCO2, was rather constant throughout the entire attack study. Our data suggest that abnormal cerebral circulation may be part of the SUNCT syndrome. The vascular changes may have underlying mechanisms differing from those of the pain.