Background Systemic thrombolysis in acute ischemic stroke is restricted to the 4.5 h time window. Many patients are excluded from this treatment because symptom onset is unknown. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have shown that stroke patients presenting with acute supra-tentorial diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) lesions that do not have matching lesions on fluid attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) are likely to be within a 4.5 hour time window. This study examines the DWI-FLAIR mismatch in infra-tentorial stroke. Methods This was a retrospectively conducted substudy of the “1000+” study; a prospective, single-center observational study (http://clinicaltrials.gov; NCT00715533). Fifty-six patients with infra-tentorial stroke confirmed by MRI and known symptom onset who underwent the scan within 24 h after symptom onset were analysed. Two neurologists blinded to clinical information separately rated the DWI lesion visibility on FLAIR. Lesion volume, relative signal intensities of DWI and relative apparent diffusion coefficient values were determined. Results Regarding baseline characteristics our study population had a median age of 66 years, a median time from symptom onset to MRI of 616.5 minutes, a median NIHSS of 3 and a median DWI lesion volume of 0.26 ml. A negative FLAIR allocated patients to a time window under 4.5 h correctly with a sensitivity of 55% and a specificity of 61%, a positive predictive value of 44% and a negative predictive value of 71%. FLAIR positivity decreased with age (p = 0.018), and showed no significant correlation to lesion volume (p = 0.145). Conclusions In our study the DWI-FLAIR-Mismatch does not help to reliably identify patients within 4.5 h of symptom onset in acute ischemic infra-tentorial stroke. Thus therapeutical decisions based on the DWI-FLAIR mismatch estimation of time from onset cannot be recommended in patients with infra-tentorial stroke.
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