Objective: Ischemic stroke must be diagnosed promptly if patients are to be treated with thrombolytic therapy. The diagnosis of acute cerebral ischemia, however, is usually based on clinical and computed tomography (CT) scan findings. CT scans are often normal in the first few hours after stroke. The purpose of this study was to determine whether Xenon-enhanced CT (XeCT) cerebral blood flow (CBF) studies could increase the sensitivity of stroke detection in the acute stage.
Methods: CBF studies performed within 8 hours of symptom onset were evaluated in 56 patients who presented with hemispheric stroke symptoms. Mean CBF in the symptomatic vascular territory was calculated and compared with the corresponding contralateral area. CBF values below 18 mL/100g/min on 2 adjacent regions of interest were considered ischemic lesions. CT scans and angiograms were compared with the XeCt findings. Neurological condition on admission and discharge was evaluated by using National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) scores.
Results: The mean NIHSS score on admission was 12+/-5. Early CT scans were abnormal in 28 (50%) patients. There were 9 (16%) patients who had normal XeCT scans because of spontaneous reperfusion of the ischemic area. XeCT studies showed an ischemic lesion in 47 (84%) patients. In these patients, the mean CBF in the affected vascular territory was 16+/-8 mL/100g/min compared with 35+/-13 mL/100g/min in the contralateral specular territory (P<0.001). There were no false positive or negative XeCT studies, and the location of the perfusion defect corresponded with the CT and/or angiographic findings in all cases. Eight patients died (14%), and the 48 survivors (86%) had a mean NIHSS score of 9+/-6 on discharge.
Conclusions: CBF measurements were correlated with the CT and angiographic results and greatly assisted in the diagnosis of acute ischemic stroke. XeCT studies used for estimating the location and extent of cerebral ischemia may be important in the triage of patients for acute stroke therapy.