Background and Purpose: New therapeutic interventions for acute ischemic stroke are aimed at improving cerebral blood flow in the first 3 to 6 hours after symptom onset. Single-photon emission- computed tomography (SPECT) performed in the setting of clinical therapeutic trials may give us a better understanding of the physiological response to new forms of treatment and could impact acute management decisions. Methods: We prospectively studied 15 patients with hemispheric ischemic stroke with SPECT within 6 hours of symptom onset and again at 24 hours. The ischemic defect was assessed in a semiquantitative manner that used computer-generated regions of interest (SPECT graded scale). This measure was correlated with clinical presentation (National Institutes of Health [NIH] Stroke Scale), initial clinical course (change in NIH Stroke Scale), long-term outcome (Barthel Index at 3 months), and complications of cerebral hemorrhage and edema. Results: The severity of the SPECT graded scale on the admission scan correlated with the severity of neurological deficit (admission NIH Stroke Scale) (P<.05) and was positively associated with poor long-term outcome as measured with the Barthel Index (P<.001) and the complications of cerebral hemorrhage and massive cerebral edema (P<.005). In fact, there was a threshold value for the SPECT graded scale above which all patients suffered poor long-term outcome and the complications of cerebral hemorrhage and edema. Conclusions: The measurement of an ischemic defect using SPECT is a valid assessment of hemispheric stroke severity in the hyperacute setting and may be useful for selecting or stratifying patients in clinical therapeutic trials.
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