Introduction: Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is mainly used in acute stroke, and signal evolution in the acute phase has been studied extensively. However, patients with a minor stroke frequently present late. Recent studies suggest that DWI may be helpful at this stage, but only very few published data exist on the evolution of the DW-signal in the weeks and months after a stroke. We performed a follow-up study of DWI in the late stages after a minor stroke.
Methods: 28 patients who presented 48 hours to 14 days after a minor stroke underwent serial MRI at baseline, 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 months and>or=9 months after their event. Signal intensity within the lesion was determined on T2-weighted images, DW-images and the Apparent Diffusion Coefficient (ADC) map at each time-point, and ratios were calculated with contralateral normal values (T2r, DWIr, ADCr).
Results: T2r was increased in all patients from the beginning, and showed no clear temporal evolution. ADCr normalized within 8 weeks in 83% of patients, but still continued to increase for up to 6 months after the event. The DW-signal decreased over time, but was still elevated in 6 patients after>or=6 months. The evolution of ADCr and DWIr showed statistically highly significant inter-individual variation (p<0.0001), which was not accounted for by age, sex, infarct size or infarct location.
Conclusion: The ADC and the DW-signal may continue to evolve for several months after a minor ischaemic stroke. Signal evolution is highly variable between individuals. Further studies are required to determine which factors influence the evolution of the ADC and the DW-signal.