Primary vasculitis of the central nervous system (PVCNS) is an uncommon disorder that can present with a variety of symptoms, making diagnosis and management difficult. We describe a case of cerebral infarction that occurred from nonbacterial thrombotic endocarditis (NBTE) and presented with clinical and radiologic imaging features that suggested PVCNS. The patient was a 58- year-old woman with left hemiparesis, aphasia, and episodic confusion. Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain demonstrated multifocal lesions consistent with infarction involving both cerebral hemispheres, and cerebral angiography showed changes consistent with vasculitis. Although brain biopsy findings were normal, the patient was treated for presumed vasculitis with cyclophosphamide and prednisone. Four months later respiratory failure secondary to polymicrobial pneumonia and adult respiratory distress syndrome developed, and she died. Autopsy revealed multiple infarcts in the heart, lungs, right kidney, spleen, and brain. Multiple thrombotic platelet-fibrin vegetations consistent with NBTE were found on all cardiac valves. Examination of the brain revealed no evidence of active or healed vasculitis. Cerebral angiography may show findings that suggest vasculitis, but it is not diagnostic, as several other conditions may cause similar changes. Nonbacterial thrombotic endocarditis may cause multiple cerebral infarctions and can be difficult to distinguish from vasculitis, as specific diagnostic tests for PVCNS are lacking.
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