BACKGROUND: Hemoglobin tetramers are the major oxygen-carrying molecules within the blood. We hypothesized that a lower hemoglobin level and its reduced oxygen-carrying capacity would associate with larger infarction in acute ischemic stroke patients.
METHODS: We studied 135 consecutive patients with acute ischemic stroke and perfusion brain MRI. We explored the association of admission hemoglobin with initial infarct volumes on acute images and the volume of infarct expansion on follow-up images. Multivariable linear regression was performed to analyze the independent effect of hemoglobin on imaging outcomes.
RESULTS: Bivariate analyses showed a significant inverse correlation between hemoglobin and initial volume in diffusion-weighted imaging (r = -0.20, p = 0.02) and absolute infarct growth (r = -0.20, p = 0.02). Multivariable linear regression modeling revealed that hemoglobin remained independently predictive of larger infarct volumes acutely (p < 0.005) and with greater infarct expansion (p < 0.01) after adjusting for known covariates.
CONCLUSIONS: Hemoglobin level at the time of acute ischemic stroke associates with larger infarcts and increased infarct growth. Clarification of the mechanism of this effect may yield novel insights for therapy.