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Stroke. 2013 Dec;44(12):3553-6. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.113.003079. Epub 2013 Oct 8.

Clot length distribution and predictors in anterior circulation stroke: implications for intra-arterial therapy.

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  • 1From the Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA (S.K., L.T.M., S.R.P., J.A.H., M.H.L., A.J.Y.); and Penumbra, Inc, Alameda, CA (M.A., S.P.S., A.B.).



Thin-section noncontrast computed tomography images can be used to measure hyperdense clot length in acute ischemic stroke. Clots≥8 mm have a very low probability of intravenous tissue-type plasminogen activator recanalization and hence may benefit from a bridging intra-arterial approach. To understand the prevalence of such clots, we sought to determine the distribution and predictors of clot lengths in consecutive anterior circulation proximal artery occlusions.


Of 623 consecutive patients with acute ischemic stroke, 53 met inclusion criteria: presentation<8 hours from onset; intracranial internal carotid artery-terminus or proximal-middle cerebral artery occlusion; admission thin-slice noncontrast computed tomography (≤2.5 mm); and no intravenous tissue-type plasminogen activator pretreatment. For each patient, hyperdense clot length was measured and recorded along with additional relevant imaging and clinical data.


Mean age was 70 years, and mean time to computed tomography was 213 minutes. Median baseline National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale was 16.5. Occlusions were located in the internal carotid artery-terminus (34% [18 of 53]), middle cerebral artery M1 (49% [26 of 53]) and M2 segments (17% [9 of 53]). Hyperdense thrombus was visible in 96%, with mean and median clot lengths (mm) of 18.5 (±14.2) and 16.1 (7.6-25.2), respectively. Occlusion location was the strongest predictor of clot length (multivariate, P=0.02). Clot length was ≥8 mm in 94%, 73%, and 22% of internal carotid artery-terminus, M1, and M2 occlusions, respectively.


The majority of anterior circulation proximal occlusions are ≥8 mm long, helping to explain the low published rates of intravenous tissue-type plasminogen activator recanalization. Internal carotid artery-terminus occlusion is an excellent marker for clot length≥8 mm; vessel-imaging status alone may be sufficient. Thin-section noncontrast computed tomography seems useful for patients with middle cerebral artery occlusion because of the wide variability of clot lengths.


IV-tPA; clot-length; hyperdense MCA; intra-arterial therapy; stroke

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