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World J Radiol. 2010 May 28;2(5):166-71. doi: 10.4329/wjr.v2.i5.166.

Update on the natural history of intracranial atherosclerotic disease: A critical review.

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Ricardo J Komotar, Christopher P Kellner, Daniel M Raper, Dorothea Strozyk, Randall T Higashida, Philip M Meyers, Departments of Neurological Surgery and Radiology, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY 10032, United States; Sydney Medical School, Northern Clinical School, Level 7, Kolling Building, Royal North Shore Hospital, Reserve Road, St Leonards NSW 2065, Australia.


Intracranial atherosclerotic disease (ICAD) contributes to a significant number of ischemic strokes. There is debate in the recent literature concerning the impact of the location of stenosis in ICAD on outcome. Some reports have suggested that disease processes and outcomes vary by vessel location, potentially altering the natural history and indications for intervention. Here we have performed a comprehensive, critical review of the natural history of ICAD by vessel in an attempt to assess the differences in disease specific to each of the vascular territories. Our assessment concludes that only minor differences exist between patients with different vessels affected in vessel-specific ICAD. We have found that middle cerebral artery disease confers a lower mortality than vessel-specific ICAD in other intracranial vessels, asymptomatic disease follows a more benign course than symptomatic disease, and that plaque progression or the detection of microemboli on transcranial Doppler may predict poor outcome. Given the expanding indications for treatment of ICAD and rapidly developing endovascular techniques to confront this disease, a thorough understanding of the natural history of ICAD aids the interventional neuroradiologist in determining when to treat and how to predict outcome in this patient population.


Intracranial atherosclerosis; Natural history; Stenosis

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