Background and purpose: In the concept of ischemic penumbra, the volume of salvaged penumbra is considered as the volume of FLAIR normalization on follow-up MRI compared with early diffusion and perfusion abnormalities. Using magnetization transfer imaging, very sensitive to macromolecular disruption, we investigated whether FLAIR normalization was a good marker for tissue full recovery.
Methods: We prospectively included 30 patients with acute middle cerebral artery stroke. Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) and perfusion-weighted imaging were performed within 12 hours after onset (MRI.1), and the final infarct was documented by MRI with FLAIR and magnetization transfer at 1-month follow-up (MRI.2). We compared magnetic transfer ratio of a normal region with values measured at 1 month (MRI.2) in 4 regions of interest: (1) the initial DWI hypersignal (CORE=DWI MRI.1); (2) the infarct growth area (infarct growth=FLAIR MRI.2-DWI MRI.1); (3) the hypoperfused area that normalized (reversible perfusion abnormalities=perfusion-weighted imaging MRI.1-FLAIR_ MRI.2); and (4) the early DWI abnormalities that normalized (reversible diffusion abnormalities=DWI MRI.1- FLAIR_MRI.2).
Results: In comparison with values obtained in normal tissue (magnetic transfer ratio=49.8%, SD=1.9), magnetic transfer ratio at 1 month was significantly decreased in reversible perfusion abnormalities (45.2%, SD=2.5; P<0.0001) and reversible diffusion abnormalities (43.2%, SD=2.8; P=0.0156). It was also markedly reduced, as expected, in the CORE (40.9%, SD=5.2) and infarct growth regions (43.1%, SD=2.0).
Conclusions: Magnetic transfer ratio assessed presence of microstructural damages in the MRI-defined salvaged penumbra. This may imply cellular loss and partial infarction. Evaluation of the efficacy of therapies that promote reperfusion or neuroprotection may benefit from this additional information.