Schwamm LH, Wu O, Song SS, Latour LL, Ford AL, Hsia AW, Muzikansky A, Betensky RA, Yoo AJ, Lev MH, Boulouis G, Lauer A, Cougo P, Copen WA, Harris GJ, Warach S. Intravenous thrombolysis in unwitnessed stroke onset: MR WITNESS trial results. Ann Neurol 2018;83(5):980-993.Abstract
    OBJECTIVE: Most acute ischemic stroke (AIS) patients with unwitnessed symptom onset are ineligible for intravenous thrombolysis due to timing alone. Lesion evolution on fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) correlates with stroke duration, and quantitative mismatch of diffusion-weighted MRI with FLAIR (qDFM) might indicate stroke duration within guideline-recommended thrombolysis. We tested whether intravenous thrombolysis ≤4.5 hours from the time of symptom discovery is safe in patients with qDFM in an open-label, phase 2a, prospective study (NCT01282242). METHODS: Patients aged 18 to 85 years with AIS of unwitnessed onset at 4.5 to 24 hours since they were last known to be well, treatable within 4.5 hours of symptom discovery with intravenous alteplase (0.9mg/kg), and presenting with qDFM were screened across 14 hospitals. The primary outcome was the risk of symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage (sICH) with preplanned stopping rules. Secondary outcomes included symptomatic brain edema risk, and functional outcomes of 90-day modified Rankin Scale (mRS). RESULTS: Eighty subjects were enrolled between January 31, 2011 and October 4, 2015 and treated with alteplase at median 11.2 hours (IQR = 9.5-13.3) from when they were last known to be well. There was 1 sICH (1.3%) and 3 cases of symptomatic edema (3.8%). At 90 days, 39% of subjects achieved mRS = 0-1, as did 48% of subjects who had vessel imaging and were without large vessel occlusions. INTERPRETATION: Intravenous thrombolysis within 4.5 hours of symptom discovery in patients with unwitnessed stroke selected by qDFM, who are beyond the recommended time windows, is safe. A randomized trial testing efficacy using qDFM appears feasible and is warranted in patients without large vessel occlusions. Ann Neurol 2018;83:980-993.
    Etherton MR, Barreto AD, Schwamm LH, Wu O. Neuroimaging Paradigms to Identify Patients for Reperfusion Therapy in Stroke of Unknown Onset. Front Neurol 2018;9:327.Abstract
    Despite the proven efficacy of intravenous alteplase or endovascular thrombectomy for the treatment of patients with acute ischemic stroke, only a minority receive these treatments. This low treatment rate is due in large part to delay in hospital arrival or uncertainty as to the exact time of onset of ischemic stroke, which renders patients outside the current guideline-recommended window of eligibility for receiving these therapeutics. However, recent pivotal clinical trials of late-window thrombectomy now force us to rethink the value of a simplistic chronological formulation that "time is brain." We must recognize a more nuanced concept that the rate of tissue death as a function of time is not invariant, that still salvageable tissue at risk of infarction may be present up to 24 h after last-known well, and that those patients may strongly benefit from reperfusion. Multiple studies have sought to address this clinical dilemma using neuroimaging methods to identify a radiographic time-stamp of stroke onset or evidence of salvageable ischemic tissue and thereby increase the number of patients eligible for reperfusion therapies. In this review, we provide a critical analysis of the current state of neuroimaging techniques to select patients with unwitnessed stroke for revascularization therapies and speculate on the future direction of this clinically relevant area of stroke research.
    Cheng B, Brinkmann M, Forkert ND, Treszl A, Ebinger M, Köhrmann M, Wu O, Kang D-W, Liebeskind DS, Tourdias T, Singer OC, Christensen S, Luby M, Warach S, Fiehler J, Fiebach JB, Gerloff C, Thomalla G. Quantitative measurements of relative fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) signal intensities in acute stroke for the prediction of time from symptom onset. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab 2013;33(1):76-84.Abstract
    In acute stroke magnetic resonance imaging, a 'mismatch' between visibility of an ischemic lesion on diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) and missing corresponding parenchymal hyperintensities on fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) data sets was shown to identify patients with time from symptom onset ≤4.5 hours with high specificity. However, moderate sensitivity and suboptimal interpreter agreement are limitations of a visual rating of FLAIR lesion visibility. We tested refined image analysis methods in patients included in the previously published PREFLAIR study using refined visual analysis and quantitative measurements of relative FLAIR signal intensity (rSI) from a three-dimensional, segmented stroke lesion volume. A total of 399 patients were included. The rSI of FLAIR lesions showed a moderate correlation with time from symptom onset (r=0.382, P<0.001). A FLAIR rSI threshold of <1.0721 predicted symptom onset ≤4.5 hours with slightly increased specificity (0.85 versus 0.78) but also slightly decreased sensitivity (0.47 versus 0.58) as compared with visual analysis. Refined visual analysis differentiating between 'subtle' and 'obvious' FLAIR hyperintensities and classification and regression tree algorithms combining information from visual and quantitative analysis also did not improve diagnostic accuracy. Our results raise doubts whether the prediction of stroke onset time by visual image judgment can be improved by quantitative rSI measurements.
    Song SS, Latour LL, Ritter CH, Wu O, Tighiouart M, Hernandez DA, Ku KD, Luby M, Warach S. A pragmatic approach using magnetic resonance imaging to treat ischemic strokes of unknown onset time in a thrombolytic trial. Stroke 2012;43(9):2331-5.Abstract
    BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Toward the goal of designing a clinical trial using imaging parameters to treat stroke patients with unknown onset time, we investigated the timing of changes on MRI in patients with well-defined stroke onset. METHODS: Hypothesis-generating (n=85) and confirmatory (n=111) samples were scored by blinded readers for fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) hyperintensity in diffusion-positive regions. Reader-measured signal intensity ratio (SIR) of the lesion to contralateral tissue was compared with SIR measured by coregistration. RESULTS: Lesion conspicuity increased with time on FLAIR (P=0.006). Qualitative assessment of FLAIR-negative vs FLAIR hyperintensity (k=0.7091; 95% CI, 0.61-0.81) showed good interrater agreement. Subtle hyperintensity was less reliably categorized (k=0.59; 95% CI, 0.47-0.71). Reader-measured SIR <1.15 can identify patients within the treatable time window of 4.5 hours (positive predictive value=0.90). The SIR was greater for right hemisphere lesions (P=0.04) for a given reported time from stroke symptom onset. CONCLUSIONS: The SIR on FLAIR provides a quantitative tool to identify early ischemic strokes. In developing SIR thresholds, right hemisphere lesions may confound the accurate estimate of stroke onset time. Image coregistration for thrombolytic trial enrollment is not necessary. A SIR <1.15 on FLAIR yields a practical estimate of stroke onset within 4.5 hours.
    Thomalla G, Cheng B, Ebinger M, Hao Q, Tourdias T, Wu O, Kim JS, Breuer L, Singer OC, Warach S, Christensen S, Treszl A, Forkert ND, Galinovic I, Rosenkranz M, Engelhorn T, Köhrmann M, Endres M, Kang D-W, Dousset V, Sorensen GA, Liebeskind DS, Fiebach JB, Fiehler J, Gerloff C. DWI-FLAIR mismatch for the identification of patients with acute ischaemic stroke within 4·5 h of symptom onset (PRE-FLAIR): a multicentre observational study. Lancet Neurol 2011;10(11):978-86.Abstract
    BACKGROUND: Many patients with stroke are precluded from thrombolysis treatment because the time from onset of their symptoms is unknown. We aimed to test whether a mismatch in visibility of an acute ischaemic lesion between diffusion-weighted MRI (DWI) and fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) MRI (DWI-FLAIR mismatch) can be used to detect patients within the recommended time window for thrombolysis. METHODS: In this multicentre observational study, we analysed clinical and MRI data from patients presenting between Jan 1, 2001, and May 31, 2009, with acute stroke for whom DWI and FLAIR were done within 12 h of observed symptom onset. Two neurologists masked to clinical data judged the visibility of acute ischaemic lesions on DWI and FLAIR imaging, and DWI-FLAIR mismatch was diagnosed by consensus. We calculated predictive values of DWI-FLAIR mismatch for the identification of patients with symptom onset within 4·5 h and within 6 h and did multivariate regression analysis to identify potential confounding covariates. This study is registered with, number NCT01021319. FINDINGS: The final analysis included 543 patients. Mean age was 66·0 years (95% CI 64·7-67·3) and median National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale score was 8 (IQR 4-15). Acute ischaemic lesions were identified on DWI in 516 patients (95%) and on FLAIR in 271 patients (50%). Interobserver agreement for acute ischaemic lesion visibility on FLAIR imaging was moderate (κ=0·569, 95% CI 0·504-0·634). DWI-FLAIR mismatch identified patients within 4·5 h of symptom onset with 62% (95% CI 57-67) sensitivity, 78% (72-84) specificity, 83% (79-88) positive predictive value, and 54% (48-60) negative predictive value. Multivariate regression analysis identified a longer time to MRI (p<0·0001), a lower age (p=0·0009), and a larger DWI lesion volume (p=0·0226) as independent predictors of lesion visibility on FLAIR imaging. INTERPRETATION: Patients with an acute ischaemic lesion detected with DWI but not with FLAIR imaging are likely to be within a time window for which thrombolysis is safe and effective. These findings lend support to the use of DWI-FLAIR mismatch for selection of patients in a future randomised trial of thrombolysis in patients with unknown time of symptom onset. FUNDING: Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung, National Institutes of Health.
    Wu O, Schwamm LH, Sorensen GA. Imaging stroke patients with unclear onset times. Neuroimaging Clin N Am 2011;21(2):327-44, xi.Abstract
    Stroke is a leading cause of death and adult morbidity worldwide. By defining stroke symptom onset by the time the patient was last known to be well, many patients whose onsets are unwitnessed are automatically ineligible for thrombolytic therapy. Advanced brain imaging may serve as a substitute witness to estimate stroke onset and duration in those patients who do not have a human witness. This article reviews and compares some of these imaging-based approaches to thrombolysis eligibility, which can potentially expand the use of thrombolytic therapy to a broader population of acute stroke patients.