Carotid Atherosclerosis and Longitudinal Changes of MRI Visual Rating Measures in Stroke Survivors: A Seven-Year Follow-Up Study

J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2021 Jul 26;30(10):106010. doi: 10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2021.106010. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: We aimed to assess longitudinal changes in MRI measures of brain atrophy and white matter lesions in stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA) survivors, and explore whether carotid stenosis predicts progression of these changes, assessed by visual rating scales.

Materials and methods: All patients with a first-ever stroke or TIA admitted to Bærum Hospital, Norway, in 2007/2008, were invited in the acute phase and followed for seven years. Carotid ultrasound was performed during the hospital stay. Carotid stenosis was defined as ≥50% narrowing of lumen. MRI was performed one and seven years after the index event and analyzed according to the visual rating scales Fazekas scale (0-3), Medial Temporal Lobe Atrophy (MTLA) (0-4) score, and Global Cortical Atrophy (GCA) scale (0-3). Patients with MRI scans at both time points were included in this sub-study.

Results: Of 227 patients recruited, 76 had both MRI examinations. Mean age 73.9±10.6, 41% women, and 9% had ≥50% carotid stenosis. Mean Fazekas scale was 1.7±0.9 and 1.8±1.0, mean MTLA score 1.0 ±1.0 and 1.7±1.0, and mean GCA scale score 1.4±0.7 and 1.4±0.6 after one and seven years, respectively. 71% retained the same Fazekas scale score, while 21% showed progression. Deterioration in GCA scale was seen in 20% and increasing MTLA score in 57%. Carotid stenosis was not associated with progression on Fazekas score, MTLA score or GCA scale.

Conclusions: Three out of five showed progression on the MTLA score. Carotid stenosis was not associated with longitudinal change of visual rating scales.

Keywords: Carotid atherosclerosis; MRI; Stroke survivors; White matter lesions.