In patients with suspected acute stroke, CT perfusion-based cerebral blood flow maps cannot substitute for DWI in measuring the ischemic core. PLoS One 2017;12(11):e0188891.Abstract.
BACKGROUND: Neuroimaging may guide acute stroke treatment by measuring the volume of brain tissue in the irreversibly injured "ischemic core." The most widely accepted core volume measurement technique is diffusion-weighted MRI (DWI). However, some claim that measuring regional cerebral blood flow (CBF) with CT perfusion imaging (CTP), and labeling tissue below some threshold as the core, provides equivalent estimates. We tested whether any threshold allows reliable substitution of CBF for DWI. METHODS: 58 patients with suspected stroke underwent DWI and CTP within six hours of symptom onset. A neuroradiologist outlined DWI lesions. In CBF maps, core pixels were defined by thresholds ranging from 0%-100% of normal, in 1% increments. Replicating prior studies, we used receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves to select thresholds that optimized sensitivity and specificity in predicting DWI-positive pixels, first using only pixels on the side of the brain where infarction was clinically suspected ("unilateral" method), then including both sides ("bilateral"). We quantified each method and threshold's accuracy in estimating DWI volumes, using sums of squared errors (SSE). For the 23 patients with follow-up studies, we assessed whether CBF-derived volumes inaccurately exceeded follow-up infarct volumes. RESULTS: The areas under the ROC curves were 0.89 (unilateral) and 0.90 (bilateral). Various metrics selected optimum CBF thresholds ranging from 29%-32%, with sensitivities of 0.79-0.81, and specificities of 0.83-0.85. However, for the unilateral and bilateral methods respectively, volume estimates derived from all CBF thresholds above 28% and 22% were less accurate than disregarding imaging and presuming every patient's core volume to be zero. The unilateral method with a 30% threshold, which recent clinical trials have employed, produced a mean core overestimation of 65 mL (range: -82-191), and exceeded follow-up volumes for 83% of patients, by up to 191 mL. CONCLUSION: CTP-derived CBF maps cannot substitute for DWI in measuring the ischemic core.