Reversible Cerebral Vasoconstriction Syndrome (RCVS) is a medical phenomenon characterized by sudden constriction of the blood vessels in the brain. It often results in severe, thunderclap headaches and other neurological symptoms. Typically seen in adults, especially women who have recently given birth or are suffering from hypertension, RCVS is a rather uncommon occurrence in the pediatric population. However, when it does manifest in children, the clinical presentation and prognosis can differ considerably from adults, rendering the diagnosis and treatment of such cases quite intricate.

Two Cases, One Rare Syndrome

A recent study published in the “Radiology Case Reports” journal on September 30, 2020, presents two cases that shed light on the enigmatic nature of pediatric reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome. The study, crafted by a team of specialists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, including Samar Kayfan, Arghavan Sharifi, Sophia Xie, Chen Yin, and Cory M. Pfeifer, highlights the rarity of pediatric RCVS and emphasizes the significance of advanced imaging techniques in its diagnosis.

DOI: 10.1016/j.radcr.2019.04.010

Sophisticated Imaging for an Elusive Diagnosis

Traditional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) plays a pivotal role in the diagnosis of RCVS. Yet, these latest cases illustrate the importance of complementing MRI assessments with Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) and Arterial Spin Labeling (ASL) perfusion studies. These sophisticated imaging techniques allow for a more precise evaluation of the blood flow dynamics within the brain, which is vital for the diagnosis of RCVS.

MRA provides a detailed view of the blood vessels, enabling the identification of areas with constricted vessels, a hallmark of RCVS. On the other hand, ASL perfusion can measure the cerebral blood flow non-invasively, offering additional insights into the areas affected by altered perfusion without the need for contrast agents. The two cases in the report presented disparate MRI findings, underscoring the unpredictability of RCVS and the subsequent need for advanced imaging modalities.

Case Overviews and Findings

The first case involved a child presenting with severe headaches and neurological deficits. MRI findings were nonspecific, but MRA revealed segmental vasoconstriction, which is indicative of RCVS. ASL perfusion findings showed regions of hyperperfusion followed by hypoperfusion, suggesting acute vasoconstriction followed by reactive hyperemia and then compensatory vasoconstriction.

The second case saw a slightly different presentation, with the pediatric patient experiencing acute headaches and seizures. The MRI scans in this instance were initially considered normal, however, the MRA and ASL imaging provided evidence of vasoconstriction and compromised blood flow consistent with RCVS.

Notably, both cases were managed with a conservative treatment approach, including medication to control blood pressure and pain. The condition was reversible, and both pediatric patients made a full recovery with no lasting neurological damage.

Discussion and Implications

RCVS is often a diagnosis of exclusion in pediatrics, primarily because the first-line imaging, such as computed tomography (CT) scans or basic MRI, might not detect the subtleties of the condition. This underscores the importance of high-resolution vascular imaging and cerebral blood flow studies when RCVS is suspected. The use of MRA and ASL perfusion imaging in these pediatric cases facilitated the accurate identification and management of RCVS.

Recognition of pediatric RCVS is crucial because it is associated with a risk of potentially serious complications, including stroke, seizures, and hemorrhage. Prompt and accurate diagnosis can significantly alter the course of treatment and reduce the risk of long-term neurological deficits.

To healthcare professionals, these cases serve as a compelling reminder to consider RCVS in the differential diagnosis when confronted with pediatric patients exhibiting relevant symptoms, even if initial imaging results are inconclusive.


The cases detailed in the “Radiology Case Reports” journal illustrate the diagnostic challenges of pediatric RCVS and the importance of advanced imaging techniques for accurate identification and management. They underline the adaptability and resourcefulness required for dealing with such rare and variable presentations in children. Advancing imaging technology has enabled pediatric radiologists to accurately diagnose and effectively manage conditions like RCVS, ensuring the best possible outcomes for young patients.


1. Pediatric RCVS
2. Reversible Cerebral Vasoconstriction Syndrome
3. Advanced Imaging Techniques
4. MRA and ASL Perfusion
5. Thunderclap Headaches in Children


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