Arterial spin labeling MRI in carotid stenosis: Arterial transit artifacts may predict symptoms

Alberto Di Napoli, Suk Fun Cheng, John Gregson, David Atkinson, Julia Emily Markus, Toby Richards, Martin M. Brown, Magdalena Sokolska, Hans Rolf Jäger

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Stenosis of the internal carotid artery has a higher risk for stroke. Many investigations have focused on structure and plaque composition as signs of plaque vulnerability, but few studies have analyzed hemodynamic changes in the brain as a risk factor. Purpose: To use 3-T MRI methods including contrast material-enhanced MR angiography, carotid plaque imaging, and arterial spin labeling (ASL) to identify imaging parameters that best help distinguish between asymptomatic and symptomatic participants with carotid stenosis. Materials and Methods: Participants with carotid stenosis from two ongoing prospective studies who underwent ASL and carotid plaque imaging with use of 3-T MRI in the same setting from 2014 to 2018 were studied. Participants were assessed clinically for recent symptoms (transient ischemic attack or stroke) and divided equally into symptomatic and nonsymptomatic groups. Reviewers were blinded to the symptomatic status and MRI scans were analyzed for the degree of stenosis, plaque surface structure, presence of intraplaque hemorrhage (IPH), circle of Willis collaterals, and the presence and severity of arterial transit artifacts (ATAs) at ASL imaging. MRI findings were correlated with symptomatic status by using t tests and the Fisher exact test. Results: A total of 44 participants (mean age, 71 years ± 10 [standard deviation]; 31 men) were evaluated. ATAs were seen only in participants with greater than 70% stenosis (16 of 28 patients; P < .001) and were associated with absence of anterior communicating artery (13 of 16 patients; P = .003). There was no association between history of symptoms and degree of stenosis (27 patients with ≥70% stenosis and 17 patients with <70%; P = .54), IPH (12 patients with IPH and 32 patients without IPH; P = .31), and plaque surface structure (17 patients with irregular or ulcerated plaque and 27 with smooth plaque; P = .54). Participants with ATAs (n = 16) were more likely to be symptomatic than were those without ATAs (n = 28) (P = .004). Symptomatic status also was associated with the severity of ATAs (P = .002). Conclusion: Arterial transit artifacts were the only factor associated with recent ischemic symptoms in participants with carotid stenosis. The degree of stenosis, plaque ulceration, and intraplaque hemorrhage were not associated with symptomatic status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)652-660
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

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