Stroke is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in the developed world. The goals of an imaging evaluation for acute stroke are to establish a diagnosis as early as possible and to obtain accurate information about the intracranial vasculature and brain perfusion for guidance in selecting the appropriate therapy. A comprehensive evaluation may be performed with a combination of computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance (MR) imaging techniques. Unenhanced CT can be performed quickly, can help identify early signs of stroke, and can help rule out hemorrhage. CT angiography and CT perfusion imaging, respectively, can depict intravascular thrombi and salvageable tissue indicated by a penumbra. These examinations are easy to perform on most helical CT scanners and are increasingly used in stroke imaging protocols to decide whether intervention is necessary. While acute infarcts may be seen early on conventional MR images, diffusion-weighted MR imaging is more sensitive for detection of hyperacute ischemia. Gradient-echo MR sequences can be helpful for detecting a hemorrhage. The status of neck and intracranial vessels can be evaluated with MR angiography, and a mismatch between findings on diffusion and perfusion MR images may be used to predict the presence of a penumbra. The information obtained by combining various imaging techniques may help differentiate patients who do not need intravenous or intraarterial therapy from those who do, and may alter clinical outcomes.
(c) RSNA, 2006.