Purpose: To systematically evaluate the diagnostic benefits and inter- and intraobserver reliability of an incremental computed tomographic (CT) protocol in the confirmation of clinically suspected stroke, with combined imaging and clinical data as the reference standard.
Materials and methods: Institutional review board approval was obtained, and participants gave informed consent. A total of 191 patients (mean age, 67 years +/- 16 [standard deviation]; 105 men) with strokelike symptoms of no more than 3 hours duration were recruited. Blinded review was performed by four readers with limited stroke imaging experience. Diagnostic confidence was recorded on a five-point scale. Logistic regression analysis was used to calculate the difference between the real and observed diagnoses, adjusting for confidence. Predictive effects of observed diagnostic performance and confidence score were quantified with the entropy r(2) value. Sensitivity, specificity, and confidence intervals were calculated while accounting for multiple reader assessments. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analyses, including area under the ROC curve, were conducted for three modalities in combination with confidence score. Inter- and intraobserver agreement was established with the Cohen kappa statistic.
Results: The final diagnosis was infarct in 64% of the patients, transient ischemic attack in 18%, and stroke mimic in 17%. Large-vessel occlusion occurred in 70% of the patients with an infarct. Sensitivity for stroke determination with noncontrast CT, CT angiography, and CT perfusion increased by 12.4% over that with noncontrast CT and CT angiography and by 18.2% over that with only noncontrast CT for a confidence level of 4 or higher. The incremental protocol was more likely to enable confirmation of clinical stroke diagnosis (odds ratio, 13.3) than was noncontrast CT and CT angiography (odds ratio, 6.4) or noncontrast CT alone (odds ratio, 3.3), The area under the ROC curve was 0.67 for the combination of noncontrast CT and confidence score, 0.72 for the combination of CT angiography and confidence score, and 0.81 for the combination of CT perfusion and confidence score. Inter- and intraobserver agreement increased with progressive sequence use.
Conclusion: An incremental stroke protocol that includes CT perfusion increases diagnostic performance for stroke diagnosis and inter- and intraobserver agreement.