To date, angiography has been the primary modality for assessing graft patency following extracranial–intracranial bypass. The utility of a noninvasive and quantitative method of assessing bypass function postoperatively was evaluated using quantitative magnetic resonance (MR) angiography.
One hundred one cases of bypass surgery performed over a 5.5-year period at a single institution were reviewed. In 62 cases, both angiographic and quantitative MR angiographic data were available. Intraoperative flow measurements were available in 13 cases in which quantitative MR angiography was performed during the early postoperative period (within 48 hours after surgery).
There was excellent correlation between quantitative MR angiographic flow and angiographic findings over the mean 10 months of imaging follow up. Occluded bypasses were consistently absent on quantitative MR angiograms (four cases). The flow rates were significantly lower in those bypasses that became stenotic or reduced in diameter as demonstrated by follow-up angiography (nine cases) than in those bypasses that remained fully patent (mean ± standard error of the mean, 37 ± 13 ml/minute compared with 105 ± 7 ml/minute, p = 0.001). Flows were appreciably lower in poorly functioning bypasses for both vein and in situ arterial grafts. All angiographically poor bypasses (nine cases) were identifiable by absolute flows of less than 20 ml/minute or a reduction in flow greater than 30% within 3 months. Good correlation was seen between intraoperative flow measurements and early postoperative quantitative MR angiographic flow measurements (13 cases, Pearson correlation coefficient = 0.70, p = 0.02).
Bypass grafts can be assessed in a noninvasive fashion by using quantitative MR angiography. This imaging modality provides not only information regarding patency as shown by conventional angiography, but also a quantitative assessment of bypass function. In this study, a low or rapidly decreasing flow was indicative of a shrunken or stenotic graft. Quantitative MR angiography may provide an alternative to standard angiography for serial follow up of bypass grafts.