Velocity Criteria for Intracranial Stenosis Revisited: An International Multicenter Study of Transcranial Doppler and Digital Subtraction Angiography

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Background and Purpose—

Intracranial atherosclerotic disease is associated with a high risk of stroke recurrence. We aimed to determine accuracy of transcranial Doppler screening at laboratories that share the same standardized scanning protocol.


Patients with symptoms of cerebral ischemia were prospectively studied. Stroke Outcomes and Neuroimaging of Intracranial Atherosclerosis (SONIA) criteria were used for identification of ≥50% stenosis. We determined velocity cutoffs for ≥70% stenosis on digital subtraction angiography by Warfarin–Aspirin Symptomatic Intracranial Disease criteria and evaluated novel stenotic/prestenotic ratio and low-velocity criteria.


A total of 102 patients with intracranial atherosclerotic disease (age 57±13 years; 72% men; median National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale 3, interquartile range 6) provided 690 transcranial Doppler/digital subtraction angiography vessel pairs. On digital subtraction angiography, ≥50% stenosis was found in 97 and ≥70% stenosis in 62 arteries. Predictive values for transcranial Doppler SONIA criteria were similar (P>0.9) between middle cerebral artery (sensitivity 78%, specificity 93%, positive predictive value 73%, negative predictive value 94%, and overall accuracy 90%) and vertebral artery/basilar artery (69%, 98%, 88%, 93%, and 92%). As a single velocity criterion, most sensitive mean flow velocity thresholds for ≥70% stenosis were: middle cerebral artery >120 cm/s (71%) and vertebral artery/basilar artery >110 cm/s (55%). Optimal combined criteria for ≥70% stenosis were: middle cerebral artery >120 cm/s, or stenotic/prestenotic ratio ≥3, or low velocity (sensitivity 91%, specificity 80%, receiver operating characteristic 0.858), and vertebral artery/basilar artery >110 cm/s or stenotic/prestenotic ratio ≥3 (60%, 95%, 0.769, respectively).


At laboratories with a standardized scanning protocol, SONIA mean flow velocity criteria remain reliably predictive of ≥50% stenosis. Novel velocity/ratio criteria for ≥70% stenosis increased sensitivity and showed good agreement with invasive angiography.

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