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Denominator fallacy revisited
  1. Mayank Goyal1,
  2. Ashutosh P Jadhav2
  1. 1Department of Radiology and Clinical Neurosciences, Cumming School of Medicine, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  2. 2Department of Neurology and Neurological Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mayank Goyal, Seaman Family MR Research Centre, Foothills Medical Centre, 1403—29th St NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 2T9; mgoyal{at}

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We have previously written about ‘denominator fallacy’ and its importance in the way that we report and interpret results, especially for endovascular treatment of acute stroke.1 In most studies, the number of patients going for endovascular thrombectomy (EVT) is taken as the denominator and the number of these patients achieving a modified Rankin Scale (mRS) of 0–2 as the numerator. The number of patients taken for EVT is dependent on the overall set-up, the view of the interventionalists, economic considerations (in some jurisdictions), imaging criteria, and clinical criteria. Of these, imaging criteria probably play a key role: the more stringent the imaging criteria (taking only patients with a very small core, etc), the smaller the number of patients who will go for EVT and the higher the likelihood of good clinical outcome (as a percentage of patients undergoing EVT). However, the more stringent the criteria, the smaller the overall impact of the treatment on the population as a whole. I used examples to illustrate this concept in a previous editorial.

However, let us take this line of reasoning a step further.

We know that time is brain and that infarcts grow during the hyperacute phase. At time zero after onset of symptoms, the size of the infarct core is zero. At 24 hours after onset, most infarcts are fully grown. …

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  • Contributors MG conceived the idea. Both authors wrote the manuscript and provided critical input.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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