Cerebral Venous Thrombosis Diagnosis in Children

Children with cerebral venous thrombosis are evaluated by stroke specialists. If a child is acutely ill, this evaluation will begin in the emergency department. After a physical examination, the care team will confirm and locate the thrombosis in the brain through imaging tests, which can include:

  • ultrasound: This test creates cross-sectional images of the brain using high frequency sound waves and their echoes.
  • computed tomography (CT or CAT scan): This uses x-ray equipment and powerful computers to create detailed “slices” of the brain.
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This uses a strong magnetic field, radio waves and advanced computer processing to create 2- and 3-dimensional brain images.

All these tests are painless and noninvasive. Since MRI requires a child to hold still inside a scanner, very young children may need sedation. CT scans use ionizing radiation, so Boston Children’s has changed its protocols to keep doses as low as possible.

In addition to imaging, clinicians may collect blood samples to look for a medical condition that increases risk of blood clotting. At Boston Children’s Hospital, detailed blood testing is sometimes done through our Thrombosis and Anticoagulation Program and our Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center. We may also recommend genetic tests to check for hereditary disorders that increase the blood’s tendency to clot.