Background: The many causes of Intracerebral Haemorrhage (IH) can be difficult to differentiate. However, there are imaging features that can provide useful clues. This paper aims to provide a pictorial review of the common causes of IH, to identify some distinguishing diagnostic features and to provide guidance on subsequent imaging and follow up. It is hoped that this review would benefit radiology and non-radiology consultants, multi-professional workers and trainees who are commonly exposed to unenhanced CT head studies but are not neuroradiology specialists.
Discussion: In the absence of trauma, Spontaneous Intracerebral Haemorrhage (SIH) can be classified as idiopathic or secondary. Secondary causes of IH include hypertension and amyloid angiopathy (75-80%) and less common pathologies such as vascular malformations (arteriovenous malformations, aneurysms and cavernomas), malignancy , venous sinus thrombosis and infection. SIH causes between 10 to 15% of all strokes and has a higher mortality than ischaemic stroke. Trauma is another cause of IH with significant mortality and some of the radiological features will be reviewed.
Conclusion: Unenhanced CT is a mainstay of acute phase imaging due to its availability and, sensitivity and specificity for detecting acute haemorrhage. Several imaging features can be identified on CT and, along with clinical information, can provide some certainty in diagnosis. For those suitable and where diagnostic uncertainty remains CT angiogram, time-resolved CT angiography and catheter angiography can help identify underlying AVMs, aneurysms, cavernomas and vasculitides. MRI is more sensitive for the detection of subacute and chronic haemorrhage and identification of underlying mass lesions.
Keywords: Intracerebral haemorrhage, amyloid angiopathy, hypertensive haemorrhage, vasculitis, venous sinus thrombosis, herpes encephalitis, vascular malformations.
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