Objective: High-resolution MR-imaging of the intracranial arterial wall is a promising technique for diagnosis of intracranial arteriopathies in patients with ischemic stroke. We aimed to evaluate the additional value of vessel wall imaging (VWI) to the standard work-up of ischemic stroke patients.
Methods: We selected all patients with ischemic stroke who had intracranial VWI at our institute to evaluate possible intracranial arteriopathy, such as atherosclerosis, dissection, vasculitis, or reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome. Two observers, who were blinded to the VWI, first determined the most likely stroke etiology based on the standard work-up (clinical history, brain parenchyma imaging, vessel lumen imaging, laboratory results, and cardiac work-up). Then VWI was reviewed to assess whether this would change the suspected stroke etiology or whether the differential diagnosis could be narrowed down.
Results: Between 2006 and 2014, 199 patients with ischemic stroke, mean age 55 (IQ-range: 44-67) had VWI. VWI provided additional information to the standard stroke work-up in 128 patients (64%). In 38/199 patients (19%) the conclusion on stroke etiology was altered based on VWI and in 90/199 patients (45%) the differential diagnosis was further narrowed after VWI. VWI did not have additional value when the most likely stroke etiology based on the standard work-up remained the same (50/199 patients; 25%), when the differential diagnosis could not be narrowed down (16/199; 8%), or in case of poor image quality (5/199 patients; 3%). Patients under the age of 46 benefited more often from VWI than older adults (Odds Ratio 3.5; 95%CI: 1.7-7.6).
Conclusion: VWI provided additional information to the conventional stroke work-up in almost two-thirds of patients suspected to have intracranial arteriopathy. Next step is to determine how frequently this additional information resulted in altered therapy.