Clinical Short Communication| Volume 379, P64-68, August 15, 2017

“Black butterfly” sign on T2*-weighted and susceptibility-weighted imaging: A novel finding of chronic venous congestion of the brain stem and spinal cord associated with dural arteriovenous fistulas


      • We report DAVFs with progressive myelopathy showing unique MR imaging findings.
      • T2*WI/SWI showed symmetrical dark signals of the central gray matter of spinal cord.
      • We named dark signals “black butterfly” sign.
      • “Black butterfly” sign was probably caused by prolonged venous congestion.
      • Identifying this “black butterfly” sign can facilitate the diagnosis of DAVF.


      A dural arteriovenous fistula (DAVF) with spinal perimedullary venous drainage can cause progressive myelopathy, and it is sometimes incorrectly diagnosed as another spinal cord disease. Here we report the cases of three individuals with a DAVF (one craniocervical junction DAVF and two tentorial DAVFs) with progressive myelopathy showing unique magnetic resonance (MR) imaging findings. MR T2*WI or susceptibility-weighted imaging (SWI) demonstrated symmetrical dark signal intensity lesions predominantly in the dorsal aspect of medulla and the central gray matter of cervical spinal cord that showed the “black butterfly” silhouette. Cerebral angiography revealed DAVFs draining into anterior and posterior spinal veins. Dark signals on T2*WI and SWI were presumed to be hemorrhages, which were probably caused by prolonged venous congestion. Identifying this “black butterfly” sign can facilitate the diagnosis of DAVF, differentiating DAVF from other spinal cord diseases such as demyelinating lesions and neoplasms.


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