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Stroke. 2011 May;42(5):1237-43. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.110.605576. Epub 2011 Mar 10.

CT and MRI early vessel signs reflect clot composition in acute stroke.

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  • 1UCLA Stroke Center, 710 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA. davidliebeskind@yahoo.com



The purpose of this study was to provide the first correlative study of the hyperdense middle cerebral artery sign (HMCAS) and gradient-echo MRI blooming artifact (BA) with pathology of retrieved thrombi in acute ischemic stroke.


Noncontrast CT and gradient-echo MRI studies before mechanical thrombectomy in 50 consecutive cases of acute middle cerebral artery ischemic stroke were reviewed blinded to clinical and pathology data. Occlusions retrieved by thrombectomy underwent histopathologic analysis, including automated quantitative and qualitative rating of proportion composed of red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells, and fibrin on microscopy of sectioned thrombi.


Among 50 patients, mean age was 66 years and 48% were female. Mean (SD) proportion was 61% (±21) fibrin, 34% (±21) RBCs, and 4% (±2) white blood cells. Of retrieved clots, 22 (44%) were fibrin-dominant, 13 (26%) RBC-dominant, and 15 (30%) mixed. HMCAS was identified in 10 of 20 middle cerebral artery stroke cases with CT with mean Hounsfield Unit density of 61 (±8 SD). BA occurred in 17 of 32 with gradient-echo MRI. HMCAS was more commonly seen with RBC-dominant and mixed than fibrin-dominant clots (100% versus 67% versus 20%, P=0.016). Mean percent RBC composition was higher in clots associated with HMCAS (47% versus 22%, P=0.016). BA was more common in RBC-dominant and mixed clots compared with fibrin-dominant clots (100% versus 63% versus 25%, P=0.002). Mean percent RBC was greater with BA (42% versus 23%, P=0.011).


CT HMCAS and gradient-echo MRI BA reflect pathology of occlusive thrombus. RBC content determines appearance of HMCAS and BA, whereas absence of HMCAS or BA may indicate fibrin-predominant occlusive thrombi.

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