Brain infarction associated with antiphospholipid antibody syndrome caused by paradoxical embolism through patent foramen ovale
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE The aim of our study was to characterize the patient profile and prognostic value associated with high positive IgG (>100 GPL) anticardiolipin antibodies (aCL). METHODS We studied the clinical, laboratory, radiological, and prospective historical features of ischemic cerebrovascular disease in patients with >100 GPL titers. From our neurology department, 27 consecutive patients were prospectively identified and followed up (mean follow-up time, 34 months). RESULTS The mean age of our cohort was 41 years. Lupuslike illness occurred in 3; 23 had primary antiphospholipid syndrome, including 3 who met criteria for Sneddon's syndrome; 1 patient had progressive systemic sclerosis. Cerebral infarcts occurred in 74% and were recurrent in 37%. Systemic ischemic events, most commonly deep vein thrombosis, occurred in 37%. Tobacco use was documented in 85%, hyperlipidemia in 74%, hypertension in 44%, and diabetes mellitus in 7% of patients. A prominent headache history was present in 67%. Lupus anticoagulant (LA) was present in 72%, approximately one half had positive antinuclear antibodies and thrombocytopenia, and one quarter had a false-positive VDRL. We compared mean GPL levels in patients testing positive for specific laboratory features of antiphospholipid syndrome with those testing negative for these parameters. Only the LA(+) group had a significantly higher mean GPL than the LA(-) group (P=0.006). Brain imaging showed nonlacunar infarcts in 73% and lacunes in 12%. Of 19 cerebral angiograms, 5 (26%) showed large-vessel occlusive disease and 6 (32%) branch obstruction. Echocardiograms were abnormal in 75%: thickened left-sided valves in 33% and vegetations in 12%. Recurrent cerebrovascular ischemic events were observed in 96%, with transient events (mean rate, 25%/y) occurring 5 times more frequently than strokes (mean rate, 5%/y). Using a standardized disability scale blinded to aCL titer, neurological impairment was severe in 7%, moderate in 30%, and mild or nonexistent in 63%, and unrelated to mean GPL value (P=0.567). Titers fluctuated greatly for individual patients, and most did not consistently test as highly positive. An analysis of fluctuation in symptom severity with concurrent GPL values did not show a statistically significant correlation. Compared with historical controls having a wide range of positive titers, the presence of high IgG aCL titers did not confer a worse prognosis for disability and recurrent ischemic events. CONCLUSIONS Our data suggest that cerebrovascular events associated with high positive GPL are frequently multiple and minor (with no disability-titer correlation), present in relatively young patients, and often associated with tobacco abuse, hyperlipidemia, LA, systemic ischemic events, and occult cardiac disease.