Imaging of acute stroke

José G. Merino, Steven Warach

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Brain imaging provides an objective basis for the clinical inferences that direct individual patient management in the acute stroke setting. A brain CT or MRI scan is required for all patients with suspected stroke or transient ischemic attack. Thrombolytic therapy is arguably the most important aspect of acute stroke management; however, most decisions in acute stroke do not relate to this treatment. Stroke imaging must, therefore, provide information beyond the presence or absence of intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) and early evidence of a large infarct. Noncontrast CT and gradient-recalled echo MRI show comparable accuracy in the diagnosis of acute ICH. Diffusion-weighted MRI is more sensitive than noncontrast CT for differentiation of acute ischemic stroke from nonstroke conditions. Combined multimodal parenchymal, perfusion and vascular imaging with CT or MRI has the potential to identify patients with an ischemic penumbra that might be appropriate for acute reperfusion therapies. MRI identifies a broader range of acute and chronic cerebrovascular pathologies than does CT and, hence, could aid decisions about acute intervention, in-hospital management, and secondary prevention. Here, we present an overview of the diagnostic information that clinicians might gain from CT and MRI in the setting of acute stroke, along with the advantages and disadvantages of these techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)560-571
Number of pages12
JournalNature Reviews Neurology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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