OBJECTIVES Better methods of identifying patients with asymptomatic carotid artery stenosis who are at high risk of stroke are required. It has been suggested that proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) may allow the identification of ongoing ischaemia in this patient group by the detection of a potentially reversible reduction of N-acetyl aspartate (NAA), a presumed marker of neuronal integrity, and the presence of lactate, a marker of anaerobic metabolism. Previous studies have reported metabolite ratios rather than absolute concentrations. This study was performed to determine if NAA was reduced ipsilateral to carotid stenosis or occlusion, and if its concentration was related to carbon dioxide reactivity, a marker of cerebrovascular reserve.
METHODS Twenty one patients with unilateral carotid stenosis (>70%) or occlusion were studied. Single voxel proton MRS was performed in the ipsilateral and contralateral hemispheres, with the voxel positioned in the arterial borderzone region between the middle and anterior cerebral artery territories. Absolute quantification of metabolite concentrations was performed. Cerebrovascular reactivity to 6% carbon dioxide was determined in both middle cerebral artery territories using transcranial Doppler ultrasonography.
RESULTS Mean (SD) cerebrovascular reactivity was significantly lower in the stenosed compared with the contralateral hemisphere (13.3 (7.7)v 19.2 (8.2)%/kPa, p=0.002). There were no significant differences in the absolute concentrations of NAA, choline, or creatine between the ipsilateral and contralateral hemispheres (for example, NAA 10.1 (1.1) v 10.5 (1.1) mmol/l, p=0.1). No lactate peak was seen in any spectra. For each metabolite measured, there was no correlation between the absolute concentration and cerebrovascular reactivity for either hemisphere.
CONCLUSIONS In patients with carotid stenosis and occlusion we found no evidence that chronic hypoperfusion is associated with a reduction in NAA or the presence of lactate. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy is unlikely to help in the selection of patients with asymptomatic carotid stenosis for endarterectomy.
- cerebrovascular disorders
- nuclear magnetic resonance
- carotid artery diseases
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