Background: Early ischemic changes (EIC) on head CT are associated with increased hemorrhagic transformation (HT) following treatment with TPA. We examined the associations between EIC, HT, and outcomes in patients treated and not treated with IV TPA.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of consecutive acute ischemic stroke (AIS) patients presenting to our CSC from April 2014 to March 2015. Demographic and clinical data, including initial head CT findings (parenchymal hypodensity, loss of gray-white differentiation, sulcal effacement, hyperdense vessel) were collected. HT on repeat neuroimaging, poor functional outcome, as measured by a modified Rankin Scale (mRS) of 3-6, and in-hospital mortality were assessed.
Results: A total of 679 patients were included (50.4% men). One hundred and eight patients (15.9%) received IV TPA. EIC were observed in 38.5% of untreated patients and 17.6% in IV TPA treated patients (p<0.0001). For patients treated with IV TPA, EIC was seen more frequently in patients with pre-stroke anticoagulant use (26.3% vs. 6.7%, p=0.010) and less frequently in patients with pre-stroke statin use (15.8% vs. 43.3%, p=0.025). A higher proportion of HT was observed in patients with EIC (12.8% vs. 6.8%, p=0.016 untreated, 36.8% vs. 14.6%, p=0.024 IV TPA) and with hyperdense artery sign (8.2% vs. 3.7%, p=0.022 untreated, 36.8% vs. 15.7%, p=0.035 IV TPA). For untreated patients, EIC was observed in a larger proportion of patients with an NIHSS>14 (14.8% vs. 9.6%, p=0.016), and discharge mRS 3-6 (53.6% vs. 44.5%, p=0.040). For patients treated with IV TPA, in-hospital mortality was more common in patients with EIC (31.6% vs. 10.0%, p=0.013).
Conclusions: In untreated patients, EIC may serve as a harbinger for HT on repeat imaging and poor functional outcome at discharge, whereas in patients treated with IV TPA, it is associated with HT and in-hospital mortality. Patients with EIC may be at increased risk of HT and poor outcomes even without thrombolytics.