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Stroke. 2000 Feb;31(2):366-9.

Early [(11)C]Flumazenil/H(2)O positron emission tomography predicts irreversible ischemic cortical damage in stroke patients receiving acute thrombolytic therapy.

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  • 1Max-Planck Institut f├╝r neurologische Forschung and Neurologische Universit├Ątsklinik, Cologne, Germany.



Central benzodiazepine receptor ligands, such as [(11)C]flumazenil (FMZ), are markers of neuronal integrity and therefore might be useful in the differentiation of functionally and morphologically damaged tissue early in ischemic stroke. We sought to assess the value of a benzodiazepine receptor ligand for the early identification of irreversible ischemic damage to cortical areas that cannot benefit from reperfusion.


Eleven patients (7 male, 4 female, aged 52 to 75 years) with acute, hemispheric ischemic stroke were treated with alteplase (recombinant tissue plasminogen activator; 0.9 mg/kg according to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke protocol) within 3 hours of onset of symptoms. At the beginning of thrombolysis, cortical cerebral blood flow ([(15)O]H(2)O) and FMZ binding were assessed by positron emission tomography (PET). Those early PET findings were related to the change in neurological deficit (National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale) and to the extent of cortical damage on MRI or CT 3 weeks after the stroke.


Hypoperfusion was observed in all cases, and in 8 patients the values were below critical thresholds estimated at 12 mL/100 g per minute, comprising 1 to 174 cm(3) of cortical tissue. Substantial reperfusion was seen in most of these regions 24 hours after thrombolysis. In 4 cases, distinct areas of decreased FMZ binding were detected. Those patients suffered permanent lesions in cortical areas corresponding to their FMZ defects (112 versus 146, 3 versus 3, 2 versus 1, and 128 versus 136 cm(3)). In the other patients no morphological defects were detected on MRI or CT, although blood flow was critically decreased in areas ranging in size up to 78 cm(3) before thrombolysis.


These findings suggest that imaging of benzodiazepine receptors by FMZ PET distinguishes between irreversibly damaged and viable penumbra tissue early after acute stroke.

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