Background: Knowledge of the natural evolution of ischemic brain lesions may be a crucial aspect in the assessment of future stroke therapies.
Objective: To establish daily changes of ischemic cerebral lesion volume using diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: Referral center.
Patients and methods: Serial magnetic resonance imaging scans were performed in consecutive untreated stroke patients. The baseline scan was obtained within 48 hours after symptom onset; subsequent scans, 12 to 48 hours, 3 to 4 days, 5 to 7 days, and 30 days after baseline. Lesion volumes were measured on each scan by 2 independent observers.
Main outcome measure: Daily change in lesion volume.
Results: A total of 112 magnetic resonance imaging scans were obtained in 24 patients. An early increase in lesion volume was seen in all patients. Maximum lesion volume was reached at a mean of 74 hours. Lesion volumes increased by a mean (+/- SEM) of 21% +/- 12% during day 2 and 10% +/- 12% during day 3. No significant change occurred during day 4. During days 5, 6, and 7, statistically significant mean (+/- SEM) decreases of 6% +/- 8%, 3% +/- 4%, and 4% +/- 5%, respectively, were observed.
Conclusions: Ischemic lesions follow a relatively consistent pattern of growth during the first 3 days and subsequent decrease in size. These data in conjunction with data regarding the evolution of lesion volume during the first 24 hours after symptom onset may be useful in the design of pilot studies of therapies for acute stroke.