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The enhanced reliability of higher national institute of health stroke scale thresholds over the conventional 6-point scale.

INTRODUCTION: It is still uncertain if higher thresholds on National Institute of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) are better predictors of large infarctions than the conventional 6-point cutoff.

METHODS: We used 6-point and higher NIHSS thresholds including 8, 9, and 10-point to predict relative infarct areas, expressed as percentage of the affected hemisphere on axial brain computed tomography images, beginning at 5% with 5% increments each time until reaching the 40% cutoff for large infarctions, or achieving 100% sensitivity. Results were compared using area under the receiver operating characteristic curves (AUROC).

RESULTS: We enrolled 151 patients of acute ischemic stroke (Mean age: 62.88 years ± 12.71; Female: 48.34%). 77 patients (50.99%) exhibited left hemisphere strokes, while 74 (49%) had right hemisphere involvement. Sensitivity values of the 6-point for infarcts measuring 5%, 10%, 20%, 30%, and 40% were 62%, 64%, 77%, 82%, and 100%, respectively. At 40% infarct-size, 8-point achieved comparable results (52%, 55%, 69%, 76%, 100%), closely aligning with the 9-point (50%, 53%, 69%, 76%, 100%). The10-point was slightly trailing behind in sensitivity at 40% infarct-core (96%). Moreover, higher thresholds exhibited improved false-positive rates (FPR). At 40% infarct size, the FPRs of 6, 8, 9, and 10 points were 39%, 27%, 27%, and 21% respectively. Higher thresholds had augmented AUROC values (0.86, 0.86, 0.89) as compared to the 6-point (0.80). Logistic regression identified 14-point as definitive cutoff for large infarctions.

CONCLUSION: Higher thresholds can better differentiate small and medium infarcts as true-negatives and substantially reduce false-positive referrals for mechanical thrombectomy.

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