Objectives: In acute stroke patients with large vessel occlusion, collateral blood flow affects tissue fate and patient outcome. The visibility of collaterals on computed tomography angiography (CTA) strongly depends on the acquisition phase, but the optimal time point for collateral imaging is unknown.
Methods: We analysed collaterals in a time-resolved fashion using four-dimensional (4D) CTA in 82 endovascularly treated stroke patients, aiming to determine which acquisition phase best depicts collaterals and predicts outcome. Early, peak and late phases as well as temporally fused maximum intensity projections (tMIP) were graded using a semiquantitative regional leptomeningeal collateral score, compared with conventional single-phase CTA and correlated with functional outcome.
Results: The total extent of collateral flow was best visualised on tMIP. Collateral scores were significantly lower on early and peak phase as well as on single-phase CTA. Collateral grade was associated with favourable functional outcome and the strength of this relationship increased from earlier to later phases, with collaterals on tMIP showing the strongest correlation with outcome.
Conclusions: Temporally fused tMIP images provide the best depiction of collateral flow. Our findings suggest that the total extent of collateral flow, rather than the velocity of collateral filling, best predicts clinical outcome.
Key points: • Collateral flow visibility on CTA strongly depends on the acquisition phase • tMIP offers the best visualisation of the extent of collaterals • Outcome prediction may be better with tMIP than with earlier phases.• Total extent of collaterals seems more important than their filling speed • If triggered too early, CTA may underestimate collateral flow.