The Prevalence of and Factors Related to Vascular Hyperintensity on T1-Weighted Imaging in Acute Ischemic Stroke

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Background: Thrombus visualization in patients with acute ischemic stroke has been detected and reported using various imaging modalities. T1-weighted imaging (T1-WI) can depict thrombi as hyperintense signals within vessels. Moreover, in addition to thrombi, T1-WI hyperintensities in arteries may suggest arterial dissection. However, the frequency of and factors related to the T1-hyperintense vessel sign (T1-HVS) are not fully known. The aim of this study was to clarify the prevalence of and related factors for the T1-HVS in patients with acute ischemic stroke. Methods: From September 2014 through December 2015, consecutive acute ischemic stroke patients who were admitted to our stroke unit within 7 days from symptom onset were retrospectively recruited from the prospective registry. A T1-HVS was defined as the presence of a hyperintense signal, with intensity higher than surrounding brain, within the vessel lumen. Moreover, T1-HVSs were separated into filled T1-HVSs (hyperintensity fills whole vessel lumen) and non-filled T1-HVSs. The frequency of the T1-HVS and the timing of emersion and the relationship between the presence of the T1-HVS and arterial occlusion were assessed. Results: A total of 399 patients (139 women; median age 73 years; National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale score 3) were enrolled in the present study. Of these, 327 (82%) patients had T1-WI on admission. Two hundred and sixty-seven (67%) subjects had at least one follow-up T1-WI (median 6 days after admission), and 134 (34%) cases had ≥2 follow-up T1-WI examinations. The T1-HVS was observed in 18 patients during admission; therefore, the frequency of the T1-HVS in acute ischemic stroke patients was 4.5% (95% CI 2.5-6.5%). All but one (94%) of the T1-HVSs were first observed on follow-up imaging, and the median number of days from onset to T1-HVS appearance was 9. For patients having initial major artery occlusion and follow-up MRI (n = 95), sensitivity and specificity of the T1-HVS for persistent arterial occlusion on follow-up MR angiography were 22 and 100%, respectively. T1-HVS persisted for a few months and then normalized. Although there were no significant differences between filled and non-filled T1-HVS, more patients with non-filled T1-HVS had arterial dissection (43%) than those with filled T1-HVS (9%, p = 0.245). Conclusion: The T1-HVS was observed in 4.5% of acute ischemic stroke patients. T1-HVSs appeared in the subacute phase in arteries with persistent occlusion and remained for a few months.

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