Hemodynamic Disturbances in Posterior Circulation Stroke: 4D Flow Magnetic Resonance Imaging Added to Computed Tomography Angiography

Front Neurosci. 2021 Sep 30;15:656769. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.656769. eCollection 2021.


Objective: A clinically feasible, non-invasive method to quantify blood flow, hemodynamics, and collateral flow in the vertebrobasilar arterial tree is missing. The objective of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of quantifying blood flow and blood flow patterns using 4D flow magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in consecutive patients after an ischemic stroke in the posterior circulation. We also explore if 4D-flow, analyzed in conjunction with computed tomography angiography (CTA), has potential as a diagnostic tool in posterior circulation stroke. Methods: Twenty-five patients (mean age 62 years; eight women) with acute ischemic stroke in the posterior circulation were investigated. At admission, all patients were examined with CTA followed by MRI (4D flow MRI and diffusion-weighted sequences) at median 4 days after the presenting event. Based on the classification of Caplan, patients were divided into proximal/middle (n = 16) and distal territory infarcts (n = 9). Absolute and relative blood flow rates were calculated for internal carotid arteries (ICA), vertebral arteries (VA), basilar artery (BA), posterior cerebral arteries (P1 and P2), and the posterior communicating arteries (Pcom). In a control group consisting of healthy elderly, the 90th and 10th percentiles of flow were calculated in order to define normal, increased, or decreased blood flow in each artery. "Major hemodynamic disturbance" was defined as low BA flow and either low P2 flow or high Pcom flow. Various minor hemodynamic disturbances were also defined. Blood flow rates were compared between groups. In addition, a comprehensive analysis of each patient's blood flow profile was performed by assessing relative blood flow rates in each artery in conjunction with findings from CTA. Results: There was no difference in total cerebral blood flow between patients and controls [604 ± 117 ml/min vs. 587 ± 169 ml/min (mean ± SD), p = 0.39] or in total inflow to the posterior circulation (i.e., the sum of total VA and Pcom flows, 159 ± 63 ml/min vs. 164 ± 52 ml/min, p = 0.98). In individual arteries, there were no significant differences between patients and controls in absolute or relative flow. However, patients had larger interindividual relative flow variance in BA, P1, and P2 (p = 0.01, <0.01, and 0.02, respectively). Out of the 16 patients that had proximal/middle territory infarcts, nine had CTA findings in VA and/or BA generating five with major hemodynamic disturbance identified with 4D flow MRI. For those without CTA findings, seven had no or minor 4D flow MRI hemodynamic disturbance. Among nine patients with distal territory infarcts, one had major hemodynamic disturbances, while the remaining had minor disturbances. Conclusion: 4D flow MRI contributed to the identification of the patients who had major hemodynamic disturbances from the vascular pathologies revealed on CTA. We thus conclude that 4D flow MRI could add valuable hemodynamic information when used in conjunction with CTA.

Keywords: basilar artery; blood flow; brain infarction; hemodynamics; magnetic resonance imaging; posterior cerebral artery; stroke; vertebral artery.