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NIH study finds MRI more sensitive than CT in diagnosing most common form of acute stroke

Results from the most comprehensive study to compare two imaging techniques for the emergency diagnosis of suspected acute stroke show that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can provide a more sensitive diagnosis than computed tomography (CT) for acute ischemic stroke. The difference between MRI and CT was attributable to MRI's superiority for detection of acute ischemic strokethe most common form of stroke, caused by a blood clot. The study was conducted by physicians at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Findings appear in the January 27, 2007 edition of The Lancet .

"These NIH research findings on acute stroke imaging are directly applicable to real-world clinical practice," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. "The patients involved in this study were the typical cross-section of suspected stroke patients that come into emergency rooms on a daily basis."

Furthermore, the study has good news for patients, according to Walter J. Koroshetz, M.D., NINDS Deputy Director. "This study shows that approximately 25 percent of stroke patients who come to the hospital within three hours of onset, the time frame for approved clot-busting therapy, have no detectable signs of damage. In other words, brain injury may be completely avoided in some stroke victims by quick re-opening of the blocked blood vessel," said Dr. Koroshetz.

The researchers conducted the study to determine whether MRI was superior to CT for emergency diagnosis of acute ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke (caused by bleeding into the brain). Standard CT uses X-rays which are passed through the body at different angles and processed by a computer as cross-sectional images, or slices of the internal structure of the body or organ. Standard MRI uses computer-generated radio waves and a powerful magnet to produce detailed slices or three-dimensional images of body structures and nerves.
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Contact: Margo Warren
mwarren@ninds.nih.gov
301-496-5924
NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
26-Jan-2007


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