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AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2005 Oct;26(9):2207-12.

Intracranial hemorrhage complicating acute stroke: how common is hemorrhagic stroke on initial head CT scan and how often is initial clinical diagnosis of acute stroke eventually confirmed?

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Department of Radiology, Division of Neuroradiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA.



Assessment of possible hemorrhage in acute stroke before appropriate therapy remains important. The aim of this study was to determine the frequency with which patients present with clinical stroke and have intracranial hemorrhage on initial noncontrast head CT scan (NCCT). In addition, we sought to determine the frequency with which initial clinical diagnosis acute stroke is confirmed in this group.


Medical records of 691 consecutive patients with admitting diagnosis of acute stroke were evaluated retrospectively. Results of initial NCCT performed within 24 hours after presentation were assessed. All patients were examined before anticoagulation or thrombolysis. Correlation with treatment and leading differential etiology was made.


Twenty-five patients (25/691 [3.6%]) had hemorrhage. Twenty-three patients (23/25 [92%]) had intraparenchymal hemorrhage only. One patient (1/25 [4%]) had a combination of intraparenchymal and subarachnoid hemorrhage. One patient (1/25 [4%]) had subdural hemorrhage only. Twenty-two NCCT scans (22/25 [88%]) were performed within 6 hours of presentation. Seventeen NCCT scans (17/25 [68%]) were performed within 3 hours of presentation.


Despite frequent concerns for intracranial hemorrhage complicating acute stroke and treatment, a low percentage of patients had this complication. Moreover, our frequency is much lower than the wide ranges reported elsewhere. The most common type of intracranial hemorrhage in this cohort was intraparenchymal, but subarachnoid and subdural hemorrhages were also diagnosed and must also be considered. Twenty-eight percent of patients with initial suspicion of acute ischemic stroke are eventually given other diagnoses. These results may have implications for use of CT imaging.

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