Diffusion-weighted imaging and National Institutes of Health stroke scale in the acute phase of posterior-circulation stroke

I. Linfante, R. H. Llinas, G. Schlaug, C. Chaves, S. Warach, L. R. Caplan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Background: Occlusive disease of the posterior circulation represents a heterogeneous group of strokes that differ in etiology, clinical presentation, and prognosis. Computed tomography provides suboptimal visualization of posterior-circulation infarcts. Anatomic definition of traditional magnetic resonance imaging sequences has been used for clinicoradiologic correlation in patients with posterior-circulation disease. These studies focused on the subacute rather than the acute phase of ischemia. Lesion volumes on diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) and perfusion imaging were found to have a good correlation with 24-hour National Institutes of Health stroke scale (NIHSS) score in ischemia of the anterior circulation. Correlation between NIHSS score and lesion volume in posterior-circulation infarcts is unknown. Objectives: To investigate whether DWI is useful for clinicoradiologic correlation of posterior-circulation ischemia within 24 hours after symptom onset and whether NIHSS score correlates with lesion volumes in patients with posterior-circulation stroke. Patients and Methods: In a database analysis of 631 patients with stroke from June 26, 1996, to July 30, 1999, 115 patients (18%) had symptoms of posterior-circulation ischemia by imaging and clinical criteria. Among these 115, we included all patients (n=40) who underwent DWI within 24 hours from symptom onset (mean, 9.7±7.1 hours). All 40 patients also underwent magnetic resonance angiography and T2-weighted imaging. Seventy-five did not meet inclusion criteria: in 45, magnetic resonance imaging was performed more than 24 hours after symptom onset; 12 did not have DWI; in 11 patients, symptoms resolved within 24 hours; 6 had hemorrhages; and 1 had a border zone infarct. Results: An acute lesion on DWI corresponding to the patient's symptoms was detected in all 40 patients, 16 (40%) of whom had detectable acute lesions on T2-weighted images. The lesions on DWI were larger in 11 of the 16 patients with positive T2-weighted images. Acute lesion volume did not correlate with NIHSS score (n=40; ρ=0.30; P=.06, Spearman rank) also when DWI lesion volumes were divided by cause and territory. Conclusions: Diffusion-weighted imaging is more effective than T2-weighted imaging in patients with acute posterior-circulation strokes. The DWI lesion volume did not significantly correlate with NIHSS score, suggesting that NIHSS is more weighted toward anterior-circulation stroke symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)621-628
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology


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