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Magnetic resonance angiography in vertebrobasilar ischemia.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Magnetic resonance angiography is a new, noninvasive technique whose diagnostic value in vertebrobasilar artery disease has not yet been determined.

METHODS: Forty-one patients with acute cerebellar and/or brain-stem ischemia were examined by routine magnetic resonance imaging, extracranial and transcranial Doppler ultrasound, and selective intra-arterial arteriography. Results were correlated with magnetic resonance angiography. Magnetic resonance angiography was accomplished using a three-dimensional time-of-flight gradient-echo technique.

RESULTS: Magnetic resonance angiography correctly identified all occlusions, stenoses, and an aneurysm within the distal vertebrobasilar system as revealed by conventional intra-arterial arteriography but missed the diagnosis of vertebral artery dissection in one case. This results in a sensitivity of magnetic resonance angiography of 97% and a specificity of 98.9%. However, the degree of stenoses was difficult to evaluate by magnetic resonance angiography. At least for severe obstructive lesions, this drawback can be eliminated by application of presaturation pulses, which allow the analysis of flow direction and collateral blood flow. Doppler ultrasound studies add useful hemodynamic information for less severe degrees of stenoses.

CONCLUSIONS: The combined use of magnetic resonance angiography and Doppler ultrasound findings may replace the invasive intra-arterial arteriography examination in many patients with suspected macroangiopathy of the vertebrobasilar arteries.

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