Types of Cerebral Herniation and Their Imaging Features

Berta Riveros Gilardi, José Ignacio Muñoz López, Antonio Carlos Hernández Villegas, Juan Alberto Garay Mora, Oralia Cristina Rico Rodríguez, Roberto Chávez Appendini, Marianne De la Mora Malváez, Jesús Antonio Higuera Calleja
Radiographics: a Review Publication of the Radiological Society of North America, Inc 2019, 39 (6): 1598-1610
Cerebral herniation, defined as a shift of cerebral tissue from its normal location into an adjacent space, is a life-threatening condition that requires prompt diagnosis. The imaging spectrum can range from subtle changes to clear displacement of brain structures. For radiologists, it is fundamental to be familiar with the different imaging findings of the various subtypes of brain herniation. Brain herniation syndromes are commonly classified on the basis of their location as intracranial and extracranial hernias. Intracranial hernias can be further divided into three types: (a) subfalcine hernia; (b) transtentorial hernia, which can be ascending or descending (lateral and central); and (c) tonsillar hernia. Brain herniation may produce brain damage, compress cranial nerves and vessels causing hemorrhage or ischemia, or obstruct the normal circulation of cerebrospinal fluid, producing hydrocephalus. Owing to its location, each type of hernia may be associated with a specific neurologic syndrome. Knowledge of the clinical manifestations ensures a focused imaging analysis. To make an accurate diagnosis, the authors suggest a six-key-point approach: comprehensive analysis of a detailed history of the patient and results of clinical examination, knowledge of anatomic landmarks, direction of mass effect, recognition of displaced structures, presence of indirect radiologic findings, and possible complications. CT and MRI are the imaging modalities of choice used for establishing a correct diagnosis and guiding therapeutic decisions. They also have important prognostic implications. The preferred imaging modality is CT: the acquisition time is shorter and it is less expensive and more widely available. Patients with brain herniation are generally in critical clinical condition. Making a prompt diagnosis is fundamental for the patient's safety.© RSNA, 2019.

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