BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: High altitude may be a factor associated with cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT). As our knowledge of CVT at high altitude is limited, it was decided to pool such information from the available case studies to determine whether high altitude can predispose to CVT.
METHODS: A systematic review of the literature was performed for cases reporting CVT at high altitude. Searches of the PubMed database (up to July 2016) were performed for publications, using 'cerebral venous thrombosis' and 'high altitude' as keywords. Cross-referencing was also done to complete the search.
RESULTS: Ultimately, 13 articles were included in our systematic review. The population consisted of 17 patients, predominately male (14/17), with a mean age of 32 (range: 19-47) years. Altitude range was 3000-8200m. Nine patients stayed at high altitude for>2 weeks; the duration of high altitude stay was unknown for the remainder. A hypercoagulable state was found in nine patients: secondary polycythemia in five; protein C deficiency in one; protein S deficiency in one; and factor V Leiden mutations in two. No comorbidities were found in any of these patients.
CONCLUSION: Long-term stays at high altitude in association with a hypercoagulable state - in particular, congenital or acquired thrombophilia - appears to predispose to CVT. The association of CVT with a single exposure to high altitude seems low, but the risk cannot as yet be specifically estimated.