Leptomeningeal contrast enhancement and blood-CSF barrier dysfunction in aseptic meningitis

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To investigate the blood-CSF barrier (BCSFB) dysfunction in aseptic meningitis.


In our case series of 14 patients with acute aseptic meningitis, we compared MRI characteristics with CSF findings.


Contrast enhancement in the sulcal space in a leptomeningeal pattern was visualized in 7 patients with BCSFB dysfunction categorized as moderate to severe as evidenced by the CSF/serum albumin ratio (Qalb) but was not present in those with mild or no barrier disturbance (p = 0.001). The Qalb as a marker for the leakiness of the BCSFB and, more indirectly, of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) was positively correlated with the incidence of leptomeningeal contrast enhancement seen on postcontrast fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) MRI (p = 0.003). Patients with a more pronounced brain barrier dysfunction recovered more slowly and stayed longer in the hospital.


The severity of meningeal BBB disturbance can be estimated on postcontrast FLAIR MRI, which may be of diagnostic value in patients with aseptic meningitis.

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