Identification of White Matter Hyperintensities in Routine Emergency Department Visits Using Portable Bedside Magnetic Resonance Imaging

J Am Heart Assoc. 2023 Jun 6;12(11):e029242. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.122.029242. Epub 2023 May 23.


Background White matter hyperintensity (WMH) on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain is associated with vascular cognitive impairment, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. We hypothesized that portable magnetic resonance imaging (pMRI) could successfully identify WMHs and facilitate doing so in an unconventional setting. Methods and Results In a retrospective cohort of patients with both a conventional 1.5 Tesla MRI and pMRI, we report Cohen's kappa (κ) to measure agreement for detection of moderate to severe WMH (Fazekas ≥2). In a subsequent prospective observational study, we enrolled adult patients with a vascular risk factor being evaluated in the emergency department for a nonstroke complaint and measured WMH using pMRI. In the retrospective cohort, we included 33 patients, identifying 16 (49.5%) with WMH on conventional MRI. Between 2 raters evaluating pMRI, the interrater agreement on WMH was strong (κ=0.81), and between 1 rater for conventional MRI and the 2 raters for pMRI, intermodality agreement was moderate (κ=0.66, 0.60). In the prospective cohort we enrolled 91 individuals (mean age, 62.6 years; 53.9% men; 73.6% with hypertension), of which 58.2% had WMHs on pMRI. Among 37 Black and Hispanic individuals, the Area Deprivation Index was higher (versus White, 51.8±12.9 versus 37.9±11.9; P<0.001). Among 81 individuals who did not have a standard-of-care MRI in the preceding year, we identified WMHs in 43 of 81 (53.1%). Conclusions Portable, low-field imaging could be useful for identifying moderate to severe WMHs. These preliminary results introduce a novel role for pMRI outside of acute care and the potential role for pMRI to reduce disparities in neuroimaging.

Keywords: magnetic resonance imaging; neuroimaging; vascular neurology; white matter hyperintensities.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • White Matter* / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter* / pathology