BACKGROUND: Diffusion-weighted MRI (DWI) represents a major advance in the early diagnosis of acute ischemic stroke. When abnormal in patients with stroke-like deficit, DWI usually establishes the presence and location of ischemic brain injury. However, this is not always the case.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate patients with stroke-like deficits occurring without DWI abnormalities in brain regions clinically suspected to be responsible.
METHODS: We identified 27 of 782 consecutive patients scanned when stroke-like neurologic deficits were still present and who had normal DWI in the brain region(s) clinically implicated. Based on all the clinical and radiologic data, we attempted to arrive at a pathophysiologic diagnosis in each.
RESULTS: Best final diagnosis was a stroke mimic in 37% and a cerebral ischemic event in 63%. Stroke mimics (10 patients) included migraine, seizures, functional disorder, transient global amnesia, and brain tumor. The remaining patients were considered to have had cerebral ischemic events: lacunar syndrome (7 patients; 3 with infarcts demonstrated subsequently) and hemispheric cortical syndrome (10 patients; 5 with TIA, 2 with prolonged reversible deficits, 3 with infarction on follow-up imaging). In each of the latter three patients, the regions destined to infarct showed decreased perfusion on the initial hemodynamically weighted MRI (HWI).
CONCLUSIONS: Normal DWI in patients with stroke-like deficits should stimulate a search for nonischemic cause of symptoms. However, more than one-half of such patients have an ischemic cause as the best clinical diagnosis. Small brainstem lacunar infarctions may escape detection. Concomitant HWI can identify some patients with brain ischemia that is symptomatic but not yet to the stage of causing DWI abnormality.
Using perfusion weighted imaging, we studied 28 spontaneous migraine episodes; 7 during visual aura (n = 6), 7 during the headache phase following visual aura (n = 3), and 14 cases of migraine without aura (n = 13). The data were analyzed using a region-of-interest-based approach. During aura, relative cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was significantly decreased (27% +/- 0.07) in occipital cortex contralateral to the affected hemifield. rCBV was decreased (15% +/- 0.12) and mean transit time increased (32% +/- 0.3), persisting up to 2.5 h into the headache phase. Other brain regions did not show significant perfusion changes. During migraine without aura, no significant hemodynamic changes were observed. In one patient who experienced both migraine with and without aura, perfusion deficits were observed only during migraine with aura. These findings suggest that decremental blood flow changes in occipital lobe are most characteristic of migraine with aura.
The precise characterization of cortical connectivity is important for the understanding of brain morphological and functional organization. Such connectivity is conveyed by specific pathways or tracts in the white matter. Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging detects the diffusivity of water molecules in three dimensions. Diffusivity is anisotropic in oriented tissues such as fiber tracts. In the present study, we used this method to map (in terms of orientation, location, and size) the "stem" (compact portion) of the principal association, projection, and commissural white matter pathways of the human brain in vivo, in 3 normal subjects. In addition, its use in clinical neurology is illustrated in a patient with left inferior parietal lobule embolic infarction in whom a significant reduction in relative size of the stem of the left superior longitudinal fasciculus was observed. This represents an important method for the characterization of major association pathways in the living human that are not discernible by conventional magnetic resonance imaging. In the clinical domain, this method will have a potential impact on the understanding of the diseases that involve white matter such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, head injury, and spinal cord injury.