Many but not all patients with idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) have pulsatile tinnitus (PT). However, little is known about why some patients with IIH develop PT and others do not. The purpose of this study was to determine if any of the classic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)–detectable markers of IIH differ between patients with and without PT, thereby shedding light on potential pathophysiology.
A retrospective age-matched cohort study of patients with documented IIH (diagnosed by neuro-ophthalmologist) was performed. All patients had MRI performed around the time of diagnosis. MRIs were assessed for 16 variables known to be associated with IIH (e.g., pituitary displacement/empty sella, optic nerve tortuosity, transverse sinus stenosis, inferior cerebellar tonsils, arachnoid granulations, slit-like ventricles) by two blinded neuroradiologists. All binary variables were analyzed via χ2 test with Yates correction, or Fisher exact when appropriate. Continuous variables were analyzed via Student t test. Inter-rater reliability for binary variables was assessed by Cohen κ. For continuous variables, intraclass correlation coefficient was calculated.
Forty age-matched patients with IIH met the inclusion criteria (20 with PT, 20 without PT). For all known binary MRI findings associated with IIH, there were no statistically significant differences between groups. Likewise, there were no statistically significant differences for continuous variables.
The classic MRI findings associated with IIH do not differ between patients with and without PT, suggesting that systemic (rather than localized intrinsic or extrinsic) factors may play a critical role in the pathophysiology.