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Stroke. 2000 May;31(5):1081-9.

Impact on stroke subtype diagnosis of early diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic resonance angiography.

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University of California Los Angeles Stroke Center, University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.



The purpose of the present study was to assess the diagnostic usefulness of early diffusion-weighted MRI (DWI) and MR angiography (MRA) in patients with ischemic stroke. Past approaches to stroke diagnosis required a series of diagnostic tests over several days of hospitalization. New magnetic resonance methodologies that include DWI and MRA may allow more rapid characterization of stroke pathophysiology. However, no previous study has assessed the impact on formal stroke subtype diagnosis of early imaging with DWI/MRA.


We analyzed 46 consecutive patients with acute ischemic stroke who underwent DWI/MRA within 24 hours of admission. Initial diagnoses were rendered with use of the 2 most widely used formal stroke subtype classification schemes, the TOAST and the Oxfordshire methods, which were applied to patients after CT/conventional MRI but before DWI/MRA. Modified TOAST and Oxfordshire diagnoses were then rendered based on the results of day 1 DWI, MRA, and DWI plus MRA. Final TOAST/Oxfordshire diagnoses at discharge were taken as the gold standard.


Compared with final diagnoses, pre-MRI TOAST diagnoses matched final diagnoses in 48%, improving to 83% after DWI alone, 56% after MRA alone, and 94% after DWI plus MRA. For the TOAST diagnostic subtypes of large-vessel atherothromboembolism and small-vessel disease, pre-MRI diagnoses matched final diagnoses in 56% and 35% of patients, respectively, improving to 89% and 100% after DWI/MRA. Pre-MRI Oxfordshire diagnoses matched final diagnoses in 67% of patients, improving to 100% after DWI.


The use of DWI/MRA within 24 hours of hospitalization substantially improves the accuracy of the diagnosis of early ischemic stroke subtype. When initial management and clinical trial eligibility decisions are influenced by stroke subtype, day 1 multimodal MRI is advantageous as a guide to therapy.

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