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Fluid-attenuated inversion recovery intraarterial signal: an early sign of hyperacute cerebral ischemia.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Early detection of arterial occlusion and perfusion abnormality is necessary for effective therapy of hyperacute cerebral ischemia. We attempted to assess the utility of the fast fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (fast-FLAIR) sequence in detecting occluded arteries as high signal (referred to as intraarterial signal) and to establish the role of fast-FLAIR in detecting ischemic penumbra of hyperacute stroke within 24 hours after ictus.

METHODS: We studied 60 patients with hyperacute cerebral ischemia caused by occlusion of intracranial major arteries. We compared intraarterial signal on FLAIR images with time of flight (TOF) on MR angiograms, flow voids on T2-weighted images, hyperintense lesions on diffusion-weighted images, and results of follow-up CT or MR scans.

RESULTS: In 58 (96.7%) patients, FLAIR detected intraarterial signals as early as 35 minutes after stroke onset. In 48 (80.0%) patients, intraarterial signal on FLAIR images coincided with lack of TOF on MR angiograms. In 41 (74.5%) of 55 patients, the intraarterial signals of fast T2-weighted imaging depicted occlusion better than did deficient flow void on T2-weighted images. In 25 (41.7%) of 60 patients, the area of intraarterial signal distribution was larger than the hyperintense lesion measured on diffusion-weighted images. Areas of final infarction had sizes between those of intraarterial signal distribution on FLAIR images and lesions measured on diffusion-weighted images. In 35 (87.5%) of 40 patients, areas of intraarterial signal distribution were equal to regions of abnormal perfusion.

CONCLUSION: Intraarterial signal on FLAIR images is an early sign of occlusion of major arteries. FLAIR combined with diffusion-weighted imaging can be helpful to predict an area at risk for infarction (ischemic penumbra). FLAIR plays an important role for determining whether a patient should undergo perfusion study.

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