Evaluating middle cerebral artery atherosclerotic lesions in acute ischemic stroke using magnetic resonance T1-weighted 3-dimensional vessel wall imaging

J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2014 Apr;23(4):706-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2013.06.025. Epub 2013 Jul 18.


Background: Atherosclerotic lesions in intracranial arteries are a leading cause of ischemic stroke. Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) is often used to assess atherosclerotic changes by detecting luminal narrowing, whereas it cannot directly visualize atherosclerotic lesions. Here, we used a 3-dimensional vessel wall imaging (3D-VWI) technique to evaluate intracranial arterial wall changes in acute stroke.

Methods: Eighteen consecutive patients with acute noncardioembolic stroke in the middle cerebral artery (MCA) territory who were prospectively examined with a 1.5-T magnetic resonance scanner were studied. T1-weighted (T1-W) 3D-VWI was obtained using a flow-sensitized 3D fast-spin echo technique. Wall thickening of MCA that suggests atherosclerotic plaques was visually evaluated and the contrast ratio (CR) of signal intensity of the lesions to that of the corpus callosum was calculated and compared with stenotic changes by MRA.

Results: Wall thickenings of the MCA ipsilateral and contralateral to the lesion were observed in almost all patients on 3D-VWI (94.4% and 94.4%, respectively), whereas MRA showed stenotic changes of 50% only in 1 patient (5.9%; P < .001). The CR of the thickened wall in the ipsilateral MCA was significantly higher than that in the contralateral MCA (median, .53 and .45, respectively; P = .028), suggesting of unstable plaques consisting of hemorrhage or lipid.

Conclusions: The T1-W 3D-VWI can provide direct visualization of atherosclerotic lesions of the intracranial arteries in stroke patients, and it can detect signal change suggestive of unstable plaque.

Keywords: Acute stroke; atherosclerosis; intracranial artery; magnetic resonance imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Ischemia / chemically induced
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology*
  • Constriction, Pathologic / pathology
  • Echo-Planar Imaging / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Intracranial Arteriosclerosis / diagnosis
  • Intracranial Arteriosclerosis / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Middle Cerebral Artery / pathology*
  • Stroke / diagnosis
  • Stroke / pathology*