PET/SPECT imaging: from carotid vulnerability to brain viability

Eur J Radiol. 2010 Apr;74(1):104-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2009.01.034. Epub 2009 Feb 26.


Background: Current key issues in ischemic stroke are related to carotid plaque vulnerability, brain viability, and timing of intervention. The treatment of ischemic stroke has evolved into urgent active interventions, as 'time is brain'. Functional imaging such as positron emission tomography (PET)/single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) could improve selection of patients with a vulnerable plaque and evaluation of brain viability in ischemic stroke.

Objective: To describe the current applications of PET and SPECT as a diagnostic tool in relation to ischemic stroke.

Methods: A literature search using PubMed identified articles. Manual cross-referencing was also performed.

Results: Several papers, all observational studies, identified PET/SPECT to be used as a tool to monitor systemic atheroma modifying treatment and to select high-risk patients for surgery regardless of the degree of luminal stenosis in carotid lesions. Furthermore, PET/SPECT is able to quantify the penumbra region during ischemic stroke and in this way may identify those patients who may benefit from timely intervention.

Discussion: Functional imaging modalities such as PET/SPECT may become important tools for risk-assessment and evaluation of treatment strategies in carotid plaque vulnerability and brain viability. Prospective clinical studies are needed to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of PET/SPECT.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bibliography of Medicine
  • Brain Ischemia / diagnosis*
  • Carotid Stenosis / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon