Introduction: Patients with silent cerebral infarction (SCI) or microbleeds (MB) are at higher risk of developing a recurrent vascular event or suffering a hemorrhage as a consequence of thrombolysis or antithrombotic treatment. Additionally, the presence of occult cerebrovascular lesions on imaging may alter therapeutic or diagnostic recommendations. However, clinical guidelines are lacking.
Hypothesis: We hypothesize that a wide variability in physician diagnostic and treatment preferences exist for individuals with SCI and MB.
Methods: Respondents were practicing neurologists with expertise in stroke care identified from WSO, CSC, Vas-Cog and SORCan. Those who agreed to participate were sent a questionnaire which was completed online. Participants randomly received 10 cases from a pool of 20, assessing perception of risk for later stroke and treatment preferences, as well as demographic questions.
Results: Among the 252 participants, 35 (13.9%) were excluded for incomplete responses. Of 217 participants included in this analysis, two thirds of participants would proceed with revascularization therapies (tPA: 40%, endovascular: 8%, combined: 22%) for a case scenario with acute global aphasia (NIHSS 6-7) and remote bilateral MB. Additionally, physicians would order an echocardiogram regardless of the location of the SCI (cortical SCI: 56%, lacunar SCI: 44%; p>0.05). In a case-scenario with mild hypertension and 4 deep microbleeds presented with difficulty with balance, almost half of respondents did not recommend antiplatelet drugs or statins (40.2%), and 20% recommended both antiplatelet and statins. NOACS were the most commonly recommended antithrombotic treatment in a case-scenario with atrial fibrillation (AF), SCI, and a remote lobar intracerebral hemorrhage (46.4%), followed by aspirin (20.9%), no treatment (17.3%).
Conclusion: There is a wide variability in the management of SCI and MB among stroke experts. The present study highlights the need for further research in treatment efficacy, as well as recommendations from scientific organizations to guide clinicians in the management of high risk patients with SCI and MB.