Diagnosis of idiopathic intracranial hypertension: A proposal for evidence-based diagnostic criteria

Johanne Juhl Korsbæk, Rigmor Højland Jensen, Lisbeth Høgedal, Laleh Dehghani Molander, Snorre Malm Hagen, Dagmar Beier


BACKGROUND: Based on expert opinion, abducens nerve palsy and a neuroimaging criterion (≥3 neuroimaging signs suggestive of elevated intracranial pressure) were added to the diagnostic criteria for idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Our objective was to validate this.

METHODS: This prospective study included patients with new-onset idiopathic intracranial hypertension for a standardized work-up: interview, neuro-ophthalmological exam, lumbar puncture, neuroimaging. Neuroimaging was evaluated by a blinded neuroradiologist.

RESULTS: We included 157 patients classified as idiopathic intracranial hypertension (56.7%), probable idiopathic intracranial hypertension (1.9%), idiopathic intracranial hypertension without papilledema (idiopathic intracranial hypertension-without papill edema; 0%), suggested idiopathic intracranial hypertension-without papill edema (4.5%), or non-idiopathic intracranial hypertension (36.9%). Moderate suprasellar herniation was more common in idiopathic intracranial hypertension than non-idiopathic intracranial hypertension (71.4% versus 47.4%, p < 0.01), as was perioptic nerve sheath distension (69.8% versus 29.3%, p < 0.001), flattening of the globe (67.1% versus 11.1%, p < 0.001) and transverse sinus stenosis (60.2% versus 18.9%, p < 0.001). Abducens nerve palsy was of no diagnostic significance. Sensitivity of ≥3 neuroimaging signs was 59.5% and specificity was 93.5%.

CONCLUSION: Moderate suprasellar herniation, distension of the perioptic nerve sheath, flattening of the globe and transverse sinus stenosis were associated with idiopathic intracranial hypertension. We propose that idiopathic intracranial hypertension can be defined by two out of three objective findings (papilledema, opening pressure ≥25 cm cerebrospinal fluid and ≥3 neuroimaging signs).

Original languageEnglish
JournalCephalalgia : an international journal of headache
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)3331024231152795
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Humans
  • Papilledema/diagnostic imaging
  • Constriction, Pathologic/complications
  • Prospective Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods
  • Pseudotumor Cerebri/complications
  • Intracranial Hypertension/diagnosis
  • Abducens Nerve Diseases/complications


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