Accurate localization of acute ischemic lesions in patients with an acute stroke may aid in understanding the etiology of their stroke and may improve the management of these patients.
To determine the yield of adding diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DWI) to a conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocol for acute stroke.
A prospective cohort study.
A referral center.
Patients and Methods
Fifty-two patients with a clinical diagnosis of acute stroke who presented within 48 hours after symptom onset were included. An MRI scan was obtained within 48 hours after symptom onset. A neuroradiologist (A.M.N.) and a stroke neurologist (G.W.A.) independently identified suspected acute ischemic lesions on MRI sequences in the following order: (1) T2-weighted and proton density–weighted images, (2) fluid-attenuated inversion recovery images, and (3) diffusion-weighted images and apparent diffusion coefficient maps.
Main Outcome Measures
Diagnostic yield and interrater reliability for the identification of acute lesions, and confidence and conspicuity ratings of acute lesions for different MRI sequences.
Conventional MRI correctly identified at least one acute lesion in 71% (34/48) to 80% (39/49) of patients who had an acute stroke; with the addition of DWI, this percentage increased to 94% (46/49) (P<.001). Conventional MRI showed only moderate sensitivity (50%-60%) and specificity (49%-69%) compared with a "criterion standard." Based on the diffusion-weighted sequence, interrater reliability for identifying acute lesions was moderate for conventional MRI (κ = 0.5-0.6) and good for DWI (κ = 0.8). The observers' confidence with which lesions were rated as acute and the lesion conspicuity was significantly (P<.01) higher for DWI than for conventional MRI.
During the first 48 hours after symptom onset, the addition of DWI to conventional MRI improves the accuracy of identifying acute ischemic brain lesions in patients who experienced a stroke.