A Critical Review of Alberta Stroke Program Early CT Score for Evaluation of Acute Stroke Imaging

Front Neurol. 2017 Jan 12;7:245. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2016.00245. eCollection 2016.


Assessment of ischemic stroke lesions on computed tomography (CT) or MRI using the Alberta Stroke Program Early CT Score (ASPECTS) is widely used to guide acute stroke treatment. We aimed to review the current evidence on ASPECTS. Originally, the score was developed for standardized lesion assessment on non-contrast CT (NCCT). Early studies described ASPECTS as a predictor of functional outcome and symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage after iv-thrombolysis with a threshold of ≤7 suggested to identify patients at high risk. Following studies rather pointed toward a linear relationship between ASPECTS and functional outcome. ASPECTS has also been applied to assess perfusion CT and diffusion-weighted MRI (DWI). Cerebral blood volume ASPECTS proved to be the best predictor of outcome, outperforming NCCT-ASPECTS in some studies. For DWI-ASPECTS varying thresholds to identify patients at risk for poor outcome were reported. ASPECTS has been used for patient selection in three of the five groundbreaking trials proving efficacy of mechanical thrombectomy published in 2015. ASPECTS values predict functional outcome after thrombectomy. Moreover, treatment effect of thrombectomy appears to depend on ASPECTS values being smaller or not present in low ASPECTS, while patients with ASPECTS 5-10 do clearly benefit from mechanical thrombectomy. However, as patients with low ASPECTS values were excluded from recent trials data on this subgroup is limited. There are several limitations to ASPECTS addressed in a growing number of studies. The score is limited to the anterior circulation, the template is unequally weighed and correlation with lesion volume depends on lesion location. Overall ASPECTS is a useful and easily applicable tool for assessment of prognosis in acute stroke treatment and to help guide acute treatment decisions regardless whether MRI or CT is used. Patients with low ASPECTS values are unlikely to achieve good outcome. However, methodological constraints of ASPECTS have to be considered, and based on present data, a clear cutoff value to define "low ASPECTS values" cannot be given.

Keywords: Alberta Stroke Program Early CT Score; acute stroke treatment; computed tomography; magnetic resonance imaging; stroke.

Publication types

  • Review