The ischemic stroke patient who worsens: new assessment and management approaches

Rev Neurol Dis. Spring 2007;4(2):85-91.


The stroke patient who deteriorates presents a common and rewarding diagnostic challenge. Up to one third of ischemic stroke patients worsen after admission, though the frequency of deterioration is declining with modern supportive care. The causes of clinical worsening are diverse; common etiologies include collateral failure, brain edema, seizures, reocclusion after successful initial therapeutic recanalization, and systemic medical complications. Clot propagation and recurrent embolization are only infrequent mechanisms of worsening. The advent of multimodal computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging has transformed the evaluation of the deteriorating stroke patient. History, physical examination, screening blood work, and emergent reassessment of the cervical and cerebral vasculatures, regional hypoperfusion, and infarct core will yield a firm diagnosis of the cause of clinical worsening in the majority of patients. The therapeutic armamentarium for the worsening stroke patient has expanded greatly. Treatment options now include rescue late endovascular recanalization therapy, pressor collateral enhancement therapy, hemicraniectomy, and additional novel interventions in addition to enhanced supportive care. Because most causes of worsening can be treated effectively, the deteriorating stroke patient merits a swift and incisive diagnostic and therapeutic response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / prevention & control*
  • Brain Ischemia / complications*
  • Brain Ischemia / diagnosis
  • Decision Trees
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Prognosis
  • Stroke / diagnosis
  • Stroke / etiology
  • Stroke / therapy*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed