Background Post-stroke diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) signal transformation of the infarct core, which results in high apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values and variable DWI signal intensity, is completed no later than 1 month after onset of ischemia. We observed frequent exceptions to this timeline of change in DWI signal, which led to uncertainties in further clinical patient management.
Methods A prospective single-center study of patients treated with mechanical thrombectomy of a large vessel occlusion in the anterior circulation was conducted. Patients received high-resolution MRI at 3T, including DWI, in the acute post-stroke phase and in the follow-up after 3–12 months.
Results Overall, 78 patients (45 men) of mean age 63.6 years were evaluated. We identified persisting or new diffusion restriction in 29 of the 78 patients (37.2%) on follow-up imaging. Diffusion restrictions in a different location from the infarct core, representing new (sub-)acute ischemia, were observed in four patients (5.1%). Smaller areas of persisting diffusion restriction (pDWI lesions with high DWI signal and reduced ADC values) within the former infarct core were observed in 25 patients (32.1%) without clinical evidence of recurrent stroke, but with worse outcome scores at follow-up compared with patients without pDWI lesions. The presence of pDWI lesions is associated with a large primary infarct core (multivariate regression OR 1.03 (95% CI 1.01 to 1.05); p<0.01), mediating the relationship between pDWI lesions and clinical outcome.
Conclusion Smaller foci of persisting diffusion restriction (pDWI lesions) in the follow-up after endovascular treatment for stroke are frequent and likely represent a slowed ADC signal progression within a formerly large infarct core.
Data availability statement
All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.
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