J. Wardlaw, M. Brazzelli, H. Miranda, F. Chappell, P. McNamee, G. Scotland, Z. Quayyum, D. Martin, K. Shuler, P. Sandercock, M. Dennis


2046-4924 (Electronic) 1366-5278 (Linking)

Publication year



Health Technol Assess

Periodical Number





1-368, v-vi

Author Address

Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. Health Economics Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK.

Full version

Patients with transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or minor stroke need rapid treatment of risk factors to prevent recurrent stroke. ABCD2 score or magnetic resonance diffusion-weighted brain imaging (MR DWI) may help assessment and treatment.
Is MR with DWI cost-effective in stroke prevention compared with computed tomography (CT) brain scanning in all patients, in specific subgroups or as ‘one-stop’ brain-carotid imaging? What is the current UK availability of services for stroke prevention?
Published literature; stroke registries, audit and randomised clinical trials; national databases; survey of UK clinical and imaging services for stroke; expert opinion.
Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of published/unpublished data. Decision-analytic model of stroke prevention including on a 20-year time horizon including nine representative imaging scenarios.
The pooled recurrent stroke rate after TIA (53 studies, 30,558 patients) is 5.2% [95% confidence interval (CI) 3.9% to 5.9%] by 7 days, and 6.7% (5.2% to 8.7%) at 90 days. ABCD2 score does not identify patients with key stroke causes or identify mimics: 66% of specialist-diagnosed true TIAs and 35-41% of mimics had an ABCD2 score of ≥ 4; 20% of true TIAs with ABCD2 score of < 4 had key risk factors. MR DWI (45 studies, 9078 patients) showed an acute ischaemic lesion in 34.3% (95% CI 30.5% to 38.4%) of TIA, 69% of minor stroke patients, i.e. two-thirds of TIA patients are DWI negative. TIA mimics (16 studies, 14,542 patients) make up 40-45% of patients attending clinics. UK survey (45% response) showed most secondary prevention started prior to clinic, 85% of primary brain imaging was same-day CT; 51-54% of patients had MR, mostly additional to CT, on average 1 week later; 55% omitted blood-sensitive MR sequences. Compared with 'CT scan all patients' MR was more expensive and no more cost-effective, except for patients presenting at > 1 week after symptoms to diagnose haemorrhage; strategies that triaged patients with low ABCD2 scores for slow investigation or treated DWI-negative patients as non-TIA/minor stroke prevented fewer strokes and increased costs. ‘One-stop’ CT/MR angiographic-plus-brain imaging was not cost-effective.
Data on sensitivity/specificity of MR in TIA/minor stroke, stroke costs, prognosis of TIA mimics and accuracy of ABCD2 score by non-specialists are sparse or absent; all analysis had substantial heterogeneity.
Magnetic resonance with DWI is not cost-effective for secondary stroke prevention. MR was most helpful in patients presenting at > 1 week after symptoms if blood-sensitive sequences were used. ABCD2 score is unlikely to facilitate patient triage by non-stroke specialists. Rapid specialist assessment, CT brain scanning and identification of serious underlying stroke causes is the most cost-effective stroke prevention strategy.
The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme.