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Brain herniation (encephalocele) into arachnoid granulations: prevalence and association with pulsatile tinnitus and idiopathic intracranial hypertension.



Brain herniation into arachnoid granulations (BHAG) of the dural venous sinuses is a recently described finding of uncertain etiology. The purpose of this study was to investigate the prevalence of BHAG in a cohort of patients with pulsatile tinnitus (PT) and to clarify the physiologic and clinical implications of these lesions.


The imaging and charts of consecutive PT patients were retrospectively reviewed. All patients were examined with MRI including pre- and post-contrast T1- and T2-weighted sequences. Images were reviewed separately by three blinded neuroradiologists to identify the presence of BHAG. Their location, signal intensity, size, presence of arachnoid granulation, and associated dural venous sinus stenosis were documented. Clinical records were further reviewed for idiopathic intracranial hypertension, history of prior lumbar puncture, and opening pressure.


Two hundred sixty-two consecutive PT patients over a 4-year period met inclusion criteria. PT patients with BHAG were significantly more likely to have idiopathic intracranial hypertension than PT patients without BHAG (OR 4.2, CI 1.5-12, p = 0.006). Sixteen out of 262 (6%) patients were found to have 18 BHAG. Eleven out of 16 (69%) patients had unilateral temporal or occipital lobe herniations located in the transverse sinus or the transverse-sigmoid junction. Three out of 16 (19%) patients had unilateral cerebellar herniations and 2/16 (13%) patients had bilateral BHAG.


In patients with PT, BHAG is a prevalent MRI finding that is strongly associated with the clinical diagnosis of IIH. The pathogenesis of BHAG remains uncertain, but recognition should prompt comprehensive evaluation for IIH.

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