Acute ischemic stroke is common and disabling, but there remains a paucity of acute treatment options and available treatment (thrombolysis) is underutilized. Advanced brain imaging, designed to identify viable hypoperfused tissue (penumbra), could target treatment to a wider population. Existing magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography-based technologies are not widely used pending validation in ongoing clinical trials. T2* oxygen challenge magnetic resonance imaging, by providing a more direct readout of tissue viability, has the potential to identify more patients likely to benefit from thrombolysis – irrespective of time from stroke onset – and patients within and beyond the 4·5 h thrombolysis treatment window who are unlikely to benefit and are at an increased risk of hemorrhage.
This study employs serial multimodal imaging and voxel-based analysis to develop optimal data processing for T2* oxygen challenge penumbra assessment. Tissue in the ischemic hemisphere is compartmentalized into penumbra, ischemic core, or normal using T2* oxygen challenge (single threshold) or T2* oxygen challenge plus cerebral blood flow (dual threshold) data. Penumbra defined by perfusion imaging/apparent diffusion coefficient mismatch (dual threshold) is included for comparison.
Permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion was induced in male Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 6) prior to serial multimodal imaging: T2* oxygen challenge, diffusion-weighted and perfusion imaging (cerebral blood flow using arterial spin labeling).
Across the different methods evaluated, T2* oxygen challenge combined with perfusion imaging most closely predicted 24 h infarct volume. Penumbra volume declined from one to four-hours post-stroke: mean ± SD, 77 ± 44 to 49 ± 37 mm3 (single T2* oxygen challenge-based threshold); 55 ± 41 to 37 ± 12 mm3 (dual T2* oxygen challenge/cerebral blood flow); 84 ± 64 to 42 ± 18 mm3 (dual cerebral blood flow/apparent diffusion coefficient), as ischemic core grew: 155 ± 37 to 211 ± 36 mm3 (single apparent diffusion coefficient threshold); 178 ± 56 to 205 ± 33 mm3 (dual T2* oxygen challenge/cerebral blood flow); 139 ± 30 to 168 ± 38 mm3 (dual cerebral blood flow/apparent diffusion coefficient). There was evidence of further lesion growth beyond four-hours (T2-defined edema-corrected infarct, 231 ± 19 mm3 ).
In conclusion, T2* oxygen challenge combined with perfusion imaging has advantages over alternative magnetic resonance imaging techniques for penumbra detection by providing serial assessment of available penumbra based on tissue viability.