Relationship between cerebral blood flow and the development of swelling and life-threatening herniation in acute ischemic stroke

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Object. The purpose of this study was to determine whether cerebral blood flow (CBF) measurements in acute stroke could be correlated with the subsequent development of cerebral edema and life-threatening brain herniation.

Methods. Twenty patients with aggressively managed acute middle cerebral artery (MCA) territory strokes who underwent xenon-enhanced computerized tomography (Xe-CT) CBF scanning within 6 hours of onset of symptoms were retrospectively reviewed. The relationship among CBF and follow-up CT evidence of edema and clinical evidence of brain herniation during the 36 to 96 hours following stroke onset was analyzed.

Initial CT scans displayed abnormal findings in 11 patients (55%), whereas the Xe-CT CBF scans showed abnormal findings in all patients (100%). The mean CBF in the symptomatic MCA territory was 10.4 ml/100 g/minute in patients who developed severe edema compared with 19 ml/100 g/minute in patients who developed mild edema (p < 0.05). The mean CBF in the symptomatic MCA territory was 8.6 ml/100 g/minute in patients who developed clinical brain herniation compared with 18 ml/100 g/minute in those who did not (p < 0.01). The mean CBF in the symptomatic MCA territory that was 15 ml/100 g/minute or lower was significantly associated with the development of severe edema and herniation (p < 0.05).

Conclusions. Within 6 hours of acute MCA territory stroke, Xe-CT CBF measurements can be used to predict the subsequent development of severe edema and progression to clinical life-threatening brain herniation. Early knowledge of the anatomical and clinical sequelae of stroke in the acute phase may aid in the triage of such patients and alert physicians to the potential need for more aggressive medical or neurosurgical intervention.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Howard Yonas, M.D., Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 200 Lothrop Street, Suite B-400, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213.
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