Incidence of DWI-positive stroke in patients with vertigo of unclear etiology, preliminary results

Ronen R Leker, Tamir Ben Hur, John M Gomori, R Paniri, Roni Eichel, Jose E Cohen
Neurological Research 2013, 35 (2): 123-6

BACKGROUND: Acute vertigo may be secondary to stroke or to non-ischemic causes. Accurate identification of vertigo secondary to ischemia may lead to appropriate timely intervention that can minimize stroke-related damage and can help in tailoring the most appropriate individual therapy for affected patients. Diffusion weighted MRI (DWI) is very accurate for diagnosing stroke and we therefore aimed to test whether it can aid in making a correct diagnosis of vertigo secondary to stroke.

METHODS: All patients presenting with vertigo in which the diagnosis of stroke was considered underwent DWI only MRI. Data regarding the symptoms and neurological deficits, vascular risk factors, imaging findings, and outcomes was accrued. Patients with stroke on DWI were compared with those without ischemia.

RESULTS: Between June 2010 and August 2011, 28 patients fulfilling the entry criteria were identified with a mean age of 62·2±12·8 (60% male). The final diagnosis was stroke in 11 patients (39%). Patients with stroke did not differ from those without stroke in their risk factor profile. However, patients with stroke more often tended to present with vertigo accompanied by other neurological symptoms (73% versus 12% respectively, P = 0·001). After adjusting for age and the presence of diabetes, the presence of multiple symptoms remained the only variable that was associated with a positive DWI scan (odds ratio: 30: 95% confidence interval: 2·6-349). Most patients with stroke had very mild strokes with a median admission NIHSS score of 3 and DWI lesion volumes >2 cm were found in only three patients. Most stroke patients made a good recovery (modified Rankin score ≤2 in seven of nine patients with 90 day data). The most common diagnosis in patients without stroke was of vertigo of peripheral origin (14/17).

CONCLUSIONS: DWI only MRI can be used to rapidly screen patients presenting with vertigo and suspected vertebrobasilar stroke. The occurrence of vertigo in combination with other focal neurological symptoms may increase the accuracy of stroke diagnosis but is not sensitive or specific enough. Combining clinical presentation patterns with DWI data may enable rapid decision making as to treatment options.

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