Autopsy approach to stroke

Histopathology. 2011 Feb;58(3):333-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2559.2010.03614.x.

Abstract

Stroke is a major cause of morbidity and mortality but the brain and other relevant tissues are often examined only cursorily when stroke patients come to autopsy. The pathological findings and clinical implications vary according to the type of stroke and its location and cause. Large ischaemic strokes are usually associated with atherosclerosis of extracranial or major intracranial arteries but can be caused by dissection. Most small cerebral infarcts are caused by arteriosclerosis or, in the elderly, cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA). However, vasculitides and coagulopathies can cause a range of different patterns of ischaemic (and, occasionally, haemorrhagic) stroke. Global brain ischaemia, caused by severe hypotension or raised intracranial pressure, produces damage that is accentuated in certain regions and neuronal populations and may be confused with hypoglycaemic injury. The main cause of subarachnoid haemorrhage is a ruptured berry aneurysm but CAA, arteriovenous malformations and infective aneurysms are occasionally responsible. These can also cause parenchymal brain haemorrhage, although this most often complicates hypertensive small vessel disease. Sometimes the haemorrhage arises from a neoplasm. Performing an adequate autopsy in stroke requires proper preparation, awareness of the likely pathological processes, familiarity with intracranial vascular anatomy, careful gross examination and dissection, and appropriate use of histology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology
  • Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy / complications
  • Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy / diagnosis
  • Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy / pathology
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / complications
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Stroke / diagnosis*
  • Stroke / etiology
  • Stroke / pathology
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / complications
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / pathology