Cerebral vein thrombosis (CVT) is a rare presentation of venous thromboembolism. Prompt and accurate diagnosis is essential as delayed recognition and treatment may lead to permanent disability or even death. Since no validated diagnostic algorithms exist, the diagnosis of CVT mainly relies on neuroimaging. Digital subtraction angiography (DSA) is the historical diagnostic standard for CVT, but is rarely used nowadays and replaced by computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). High quality studies to evaluate the diagnostic test characteristics of state of the art imaging modalities are however unavailable to date. This review provides an overview of the best available evidence regarding the diagnostic performance of CT and MRI for the diagnosis of CVT. Notably, available studies are observational, mostly small, outdated, and with a high risk of bias. Therefore, direct comparison between studies is difficult due to large diversity in study design, imaging method, reference standard, patient selection and sample size. In general, contrast-enhanced techniques are more accurate for the diagnosis of CVT then non-contrast-enhanced techniques. CT venography and MRI have been both reported to be adequate for establishing a final diagnosis of CVT, but choice of modality as used in clinical practice depends on availability, local preference and experience, as well as patient characteristics. Our review underlines the need for high-quality diagnostic studies comparing CT venography and MRI in specific settings, to improve clinical care and standardize clinical trials.
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