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Diffusion weighted imaging reversibility in the brainstem following successful recanalization of acute basilar artery occlusion
  1. Albert J Yoo1,2,
  2. Reza Hakimelahi1,
  3. Natalia S Rost3,
  4. Pamela W Schaefer1,
  5. Joshua A Hirsch2,
  6. R Gilberto González1,
  7. James D Rabinov2
  1. 1Department of Neuroradiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Department of Interventional Neuroradiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr A J Yoo, Department of Neuroradiology and Interventional Neuroradiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street, Gray 241, Boston, MA 02114, USA;ajyoo{at}


Acute basilar artery occlusion (ABAO) is a devastating disease that can produce significant brainstem injury. Pretreatment diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) demonstrating extensive brainstem involvement has been shown to predict a poor outcome regardless of reperfusion. This case report describes a patient presenting with coma secondary to ABAO. MRI at presentation demonstrated significant DWI abnormality in the majority of the bilateral pons. The basilar artery was endovascularly recanalized 8 h after stroke onset, and the patient had a marked clinical recovery with no deficit at 3 months. Follow-up imaging revealed significant reversal of the pontine lesion. This finding of brainstem DWI reversibility cautions against the use of DWI to select ABAO patients for intra-arterial stroke therapy. The degree of apparent diffusion coefficient reduction on pretreatment MRI may not adequately identify which DWI abnormal brainstem tissue is potentially reversible.

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  • Funding AJY was the 2007 recipient of the Neuroradiology Education and Research Foundation/Boston Scientific Fellowship in Cerebrovascular Disease Research.

  • Competing interests JAH is a consultant and shareholder in Intratech Medical.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the institutional review board of the Partners Human Research Office.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.