In high-risk port-wine stain phenotypes – forehead, hemifacial, and median – early referral to a pediatric neurologist is the best way to enable early symptom recognition of Sturge-Weber syndrome (SWS), according to results of a literature review.

If imaging is desired, electroencephalography (EEG) is cheaper and more minimally invasive than MRI (Pediatr Dermatol. 2017 Oct 16. doi: 10.1111/pde.13304 ).

Of the 34 studies analyzed, none examined the correlation between early detection of presymptomatic SWS and earlier seizure detection. There were also no data to verify improved outcomes with early detection, Michaela Zallmann, MD, of the department of dermatology at Eastern Health, Monash University, Box Hill, Australia, and her coauthors reported. While this indicates a need for further studies, it also shows a need for improved education and clinical monitoring as standard practice.

Additionally, negative imaging results do not obviate the possibility of SWS diagnosis, the investigators reported. In the studies that recorded false negatives, MRI was negative in 3%-6% of infants who later became symptomatic. Of the seven infants with false-negative results, four were less than 6 months old when the initial imaging was conducted. The investigators noted that it is not known at what age a negative MRI can reliably exclude SWS.

When imaging was used for early detection, EEG was shown to be safer and less expensive than MRI, according to the review. Of children who were not anesthetized for MRI, 30%-50% showed considerable distress, while EEG was shown to be minimally invasive. Findings from a retrospective chart review show that 14 MRIs were performed to detect one asymptomatic case of SWS, costing $11,768. In comparison, EEG costs $87 for a routine outpatient study.

“Demonstrating brain involvement on MRI in infants with high-risk PWS may facilitate more stringent counseling and monitoring, but … a negative MRI does not obviate the need for neurologic counseling and monitoring,” the investigators wrote. “Allaying anxiety about diagnostic uncertainty is not achieved using a scan but through detailed education, appropriate clinical monitoring, and nuanced reassurance.”

The investigators did not report any financial disclosures.