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Eur Radiol. 2005 Mar;15(3):416-26. Epub 2005 Jan 19.

Distribution territories and causative mechanisms of ischemic stroke.

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  • 1Hospital Vall d'Hebron, Unidad de Resonancia Magnetica, Passeig Vall d'Hebron 119-129, 08035 Barcelona, Spain. alex.rovira@idi-cat.org


Ischemic stroke prognosis, risk of recurrence, clinical assessment, and treatment decisions are influenced by stroke subtype (anatomic distribution and causative mechanism of infarction). Stroke subtype diagnosis is better achieved in the early phase of acute ischemia with the use of multimodal MR imaging. The pattern of brain lesions as shown by brain MR imaging can be classified according to a modified Oxfordshire method, based on the anatomic distribution of the infarcts into six groups: (1) total anterior circulation infarcts, (2) partial anterior circulation infarcts, (3) posterior circulation infarcts, (4) watershed infarcts, (5) centrum ovale infarcts, and (6) lacunar infarcts. The subtype of stroke according to its causative mechanism is based on the TOAST method, which classifies stroke into five major etiologic groups: (1) large-vessel atherosclerotic disease, (2) small-vessel atherosclerotic disease, (3) cardioembolic source, (4) other determined etiologies, and (5) undetermined or multiple possible etiologies. The different MR imaging patterns of acute ischemic brain lesions visualized using diffusion-weighted imaging and the pattern of vessel involvement demonstrated with MR angiography are essential factors that can suggest the most likely causative mechanism of infarction. This information may have an impact on decisions regarding therapy and the performance of additional diagnostic tests.

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