Etiology of Large Vessel Occlusion Posterior Circulation Stroke: Results of the MR CLEAN Registry

Stroke. 2022 Aug;53(8):2468-2477. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.121.038054. Epub 2022 May 11.


Background: In patients with large vessel occlusion stroke of the anterior circulation, underlying cause is a determinant of outcome. Whether this is the case for posterior circulation large vessel occlusion stroke has yet to be determined. We aimed to report on cause in patients with posterior circulation stroke treated with endovascular thrombectomy and to analyze the association with functional outcome.

Methods: We used data of patients with posterior circulation stroke included in the MR CLEAN (Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial of Endovascular Treatment for Acute Ischemic Stroke in the Netherlands) registry, a prospective multicenter observational study, between 2014 and 2018. Stroke cause was categorized into large artery atherosclerosis (LAA), cardioembolism, arterial dissection, embolic stroke of undetermined source (ESUS), other determined cause, or undetermined cause. For primary analysis on the association between cause and outcome, we used multivariable ordinal logistic regression analysis to estimate the adjusted common odds ratio for a shift towards a better functional outcome on the modified Rankin Scale at 90 days with LAA as a reference group. Secondary outcomes included favorable functional outcome (modified Rankin Scale score 0-3), National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale score at 24 to 48 hours, reperfusion on digital subtraction angiography, and stroke progression.

Results: Of 264 patients with posterior circulation stroke, 84 (32%) had LAA, 48 (18%) cardioembolism, 31 (12%) dissection, and 14 (5%) ESUS. Patients with a dissection were younger (48 [interquartile range, 43-60] years) and had a lower National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale at baseline (12 [interquartile range, 6-31]) than patients with other cause. Functional outcome was better for patients with cardioembolism and ESUS compared to LAA (modified Rankin Scale adjusted common odds ratio, 2.4 [95% CI, 1.1-5.2], respectively adjusted common odds ratio, 3.1 [95% CI, 1.0-9.3]). Patients with a dissection had a lower chance of successful reperfusion compared with LAA (adjusted odds ratio, 0.20 [95% CI, 0.06-0.70]).

Conclusions: Unlike the anterior circulation, most frequent cause in our posterior large vessel occlusion stroke cohort is LAA followed by cardioembolism, dissection, and ESUS. Patients with cardioembolism and ESUS have a better prognosis for functional outcome after endovascular thrombectomy than patients with LAA.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; embolic stroke; ischemic stroke; reperfusion; thrombectomy.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atherosclerosis* / complications
  • Endovascular Procedures* / methods
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Stroke*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries
  • Stroke* / etiology
  • Stroke* / surgery
  • Thrombectomy / methods
  • Treatment Outcome