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Semin Nucl Med. 2003 Jan;33(1):56-76.

Neuroimaging in cerebrovascular disorders: measurement of cerebral physiology after stroke and assessment of stroke recovery.

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Department of Radiology, Division of Nuclear Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center, Birmingham, AL 35249-6835, USA.


Nuclear medicine imaging can play an important role in the diagnosis of stroke risk, the differential diagnosis of vascular and parenchymal cerebral abnormalities, and the understanding and management of poststroke recovery. Radionuclide brain-imaging methods can assess hemodynamic, vascular, and metabolic status before and after stroke. Several techniques, including vasodilatory stress imaging with regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), oxygen extraction methods with positron emission tomography (PET), and spectroscopic imaging with magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging, offer ways to distinguish vascular from parenchymal dysfunction and to determine whether any observed abnormalities in cerebral blood flow are primary or secondary disease manifestations. The value of radionuclide imaging in assessing the efficacy of several interventional surgical procedures is presented. Data from several imaging modalities bearing on the controversial issue of luxury perfusion and reperfusion injury are analyzed, including some of the discrepancies between animal and human clinical data. Imaging evidence for white matter disease and microangiopathy is analyzed, including a quantitative rCBF pattern analysis that distinguishes between typical Alzheimer's disease and microangiopathy by using multivariate analysis of variance curve profile analysis, which shows results of significant differences in the circumferential cortical blood flow profiles at P =.01. Microangiopathy showed rCBF reduction in the frontal and frontotemporal regions as compared with the more typical reduction in posterior temporal-parietal rCBF diminution characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. Several functional neuroimaging approaches to the study of cerebral poststroke reorganization are analyzed in the context of 2 major models of recovery: the resolution of diaschisis and reorganization in spared brain. Research on these issues is presented with SPECT, PET, magnetic resonance imaging, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Data show how standard structural magnetic resonance imaging, (99m)Tc hexamethylpropylene amine oxime SPECT, PET imaging, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy can be used to identify the extent of permanent damage versus penumbral and remote effects of a stroke. The results of the analysis of the pure-diaschisis model show a high correlation between the rCBF brain SPECT defect volume in the cortex and the magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI) change in the white matter. There is a statistically significant positive correlation between the 2 (P <.01; r(2) = 0.94). The increased creatine/N-acetyl aspartate and reduced rCBF are proposed to be due to an increase in the white matter creatine component due to diaschisis and the repair mechanisms associated with increased astrocytosis, in addition to a reduction of N-acetyl aspartate in diaschitic white matter. Xenon-133 dynamic SPECT is shown to be a quantitative and sensitive measure of cerebrovascular status and hemodynamic constraints in both spared and affected brain, providing evidence for reorganization and cerebral plasticity. Fluorine-18 PET and (31)P spectroscopic imaging data show reorganizational changes in the contralesional hemisphere after stroke. The phosphocreatine-adenosine triphosphate ratio in the contralesional hemisphere was 38% +/- 17% higher than in the ipsilateral hemisphere. The phosphocreatine-adenosine triphosphate ratio was highly correlated (r = 0.88, P <.05) with increasing (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose uptake. These results showed that there is a parallel change in glucose metabolism and high-energy phosphate metabolism associated with poststroke recovery that is proposed to be due to cerebral reorganization in the contralateral premotor cortex. The value of these results on rehabilitation strategy, including possible criteria for the use of facilitatory versus compensatory approaches, is analyzed.

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