K. W. Muir, J. Baird-Gunning, L. Walker, T. Baird, M. McCormick, S. B. Coutts



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Background and Purpose – Early ischemic changes on noncontrast CT in acute stroke include both hypoattenuation and brain swelling, which may have different pathophysiological significance. Methods – Noncontrast CT and CT perfusion brain scans from patients with suspected acute stroke <6 hours after onset were reviewed. Five raters independently scored noncontrast CTs blind to clinical data using the Alberta Stroke Program Early CT Score (ASPECTS). Each ASPECTS region was scored as hypodense or swollen. A separate reviewer measured time to peak and cerebral blood volume in each ASPECTS region on CT perfusion. Time to peak and cerebral blood volume were compared for each region categorized as normal, hypodense, or isodense and swollen. Results - Scans of 32 subjects a median 155 minutes after onset yielded 228 regions with both CT perfusion and noncontrast CT data. Isodense swelling was associated with significantly higher cerebral blood volume (P = 0.016) and with penumbral perfusion (posttest:pretest likelihood ratio 1.44 [95% CI: 0.68 to 2.90]), whereas hypodensity was associated with more severe time to peak delay and with core perfusion (likelihood ratio 3.47 [95% CI: 1.87 to 6.34]). Neither isodense swelling nor hypodensity was sensitive for prediction of perfusion pattern, but appearances were highly specific (87.2% and 91.0% for penumbra and core, respectively). Intrarater agreement was good or excellent, but interrater agreement for both hypodensity and swelling was poor. Conclusions - Regions exhibiting hypoattenuation are likely to represent the infarct core, whereas regions that are isodense and swollen have increased cerebral blood volume and are more likely to signify penumbral perfusion. Although noncontrast CT is not sensitive for detection of core and penumbra, appearances are specific. Some information on tissue viability can therefore be obtained from noncontrast CT.