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J Neurol Sci. 2000 Feb 1;173(1):10-7.

Computed tomography findings in the first few hours of ischemic stroke: implications for the clinician.

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Department of Neurological Sciences, University 'La Sapienza', Rome, Italy.


In order to evaluate the clinical usefulness of emergency computed tomography (CT) in acute ischemic stroke, we assessed whether CT findings within the first few hours of stroke onset reliably predict type, site and size of the index infarction, and risk of death or disability. For this reason we reviewed clinical and CT findings in a cohort of unselected consecutive patients referred to the stroke unit of a large urban hospital because of a presumed ischemic stroke in the anterior circulation (AC), and submitted to CT within 5 h from onset. Out of 158 total patients, emergency CT revealed parenchymal changes compatible with AC focal ischemia in 77 (49%) and a hyperdense middle cerebral artery (MCA) in 41 (26%). Parenchymal changes and hyperdense MCA predicted an AC territorial infarction respectively in 97% of cases (95% C.I. 93% to 100%) and in 95% of cases (95% C.I. 88% to 100%). Site and size of early changes coincided with those of final lesions in 79% of patients with cortical changes and in 95% of patients with cortico-subcortical changes, but only in 37% of patients with initial subcortical changes, the remainder of whom developed a cortico-subcortical infarction. At logistic regression parenchymal changes were the only independent predictor of an AC territorial infarction. Negative predictive power, however, was only 40% (95% C. I. 29% to 51%) for parenchymal changes, and 35% for hyperdense MCA (95% C.I. 26% to 44%). The odds for death or disability at 1 month associated with parenchymal changes were thrice as high as with negative CT, even after adjustment for clinical severity on admission. These results indicate that CT scan adds significantly to the prediction of outcome made on clinical grounds. The frequent development of a territorial infarction in patients with initially negative CT and the subsequent recruitment of the cortex in those initially exhibiting only subcortical changes suggest that the transition from ischemia to infarction often occurs after the first five h following stroke.

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