MRI in the Evaluation of Acute Visual Syndromes

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Acute visual symptom emergencies occur commonly and present a challenge to both clinical and radiologic facets. Although most patients with visual complaints routinely require clinical evaluation with direct ophthalmologic evaluation, imaging is rarely necessary. However, there are highly morbid conditions where the prompt recognition and management of an acute visual syndrome (AVS) requires an astute physician to probe further. Suspicious symptomatology including abrupt visual loss, diplopia, ophthalmoplegia, and proptosis/exophthalmos require further investigation with advanced imaging modalities such as magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic resonance angiography. This review will discuss a variety of AVSs including orbital apex syndrome, cavernous sinus thrombosis, cavernous carotid fistula, acute hypertensive encephalopathy (posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome), optic neuritis, pituitary apoplexy including hemorrhage into an existing adenoma, and idiopathic intracranial hypertension. A discussion of each entity will focus on the clinical presentation, management and prognosis when necessary and finally, neuroimaging with emphasis on magnetic resonance imaging. The primary purpose of this review is to provide an organized approach to the differential diagnosis and typical imaging patterns for AVSs. We have provided a template for radiologists and specialists to assist in early intervention in order to decrease morbidity and provide value-based patient care through imaging.

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