Background Despite use in clinical practice and trials of thrombolysis, a non-contrast CT is not sensitive for identifying penumbral tissue in acute stroke. This study evaluated how it compares with physiological imaging using CT perfusion.
Methods 40 imaging datasets with non-contrast CT (NCCT) and perfusion CT (CTP) were retrospectively identified. 2 sets of observers (n=6) and a neuroradiologist made a blind evaluation of the images. Inter-observer agreement was calculated for identifying ischaemic change on NCCT, and abnormalities on cerebral blood flow, time to peak and cerebral blood volume maps. A prospective cohort of 73 patients with anterior circulation cortical strokes were thrombolysed based on qualitative assessment of penumbral tissue on CTP within 3 h of stroke onset. Functional outcome was assessed at 3 months.
Results Inter-rater agreement was moderate (k=0.54) for early ischaemic change on NCCT. Perfusion maps improved this to substantial for deficit in cerebral blood volume (k=0.67) and almost perfect for time to peak and cerebral blood flow (both k=0.87). In the prospective arm, 58.9% of patients with cortical strokes were thrombolysed. There was no significant difference in attainment of complete recovery (p=0.184) between the thrombolysed and non-thrombolysed group.
Conclusions We demonstrate how perfusion CT aids clinical decision-making in acute stroke. Good functional outcomes from thrombolysis can be safely achieved using this physiologically informed approach.