Background: Advanced diffusion imaging approaches that model intracellular and extracellular diffusion components such as neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging (NODDI) may provide additional insight into evolution of acute ischemic stroke (AIS) injury over standard diffusion tensor imaging approaches (DTI).
Methods: NODDI was acquired at discharge in a prospective study of acute ischemic stroke patients with advanced white matter disease (N=36). Neurite density (ND), and orientation dispersion (OD) were calculated along with model-free diffusion parameters: mean kurtosis (MK), axial kurtosis (AK), radial kurtosis (RK), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD), radial diffusivity (RD) and fractional anisotropy (FA). Follow-up (FU) infarct volumes were drawn on discharge FLAIR. MD, AD, RD, FA, MK, AK, RK, OD and ND values were compared (1-way ANOVA) in infarct core (abnormal acute DWI), Growth (normal acute DWI, abnormal FU) and normal contralateral gray matter (nGM) and white matter (nWM).
Results: Patient characteristics were: mean±SD age 69±10 y, median [IQR] initial NIH SS score 6 [3-11], time-to-acute MRI 7.3±5.3 h, time-to-FU MRI 2.8±1.2 days, acute DWI lesion 3.1 [0.5-18.8] cm3, FU lesion 8.1 [1.2-45.4] cm3 and 61% men. Figure A shows examples of maps from a single subject. Core and growth values differed significantly (P<0.0001) from nGM and nWM for MD AD, RD, FA, MK, AK, RK, OD and ND. Within the lesion MD, AD, RD and FA were decreased while MK, AK and RK were increased. OD and ND were also increased within the lesion.
Discussion: Increased OD is expected with tissue infarction due to loss of structural integrity. In contrast, increased ND in the subacute time-frame is paradoxical. One possible mechanism could be that hyperacute ischemia-induced cellular swelling increases tortuosity of water diffusion paths, imposing direction-dependent restrictions upon diffusion, increasing intracellular and extracellular diffusion.