MRI Scans and Stroke Treatment: Positive New Developments

MRI scans and stroke treatment go hand in hand, more so now than ever. A recent trial study is pointing to new ways cutting-edge imaging technology can save lives in cases of stroke.

Response time after a stroke is incredibly important. In the past, patients who suffered ischemic stroke only had about six hours to get surgery. After that, medical consensus held that the surgical intervention would no longer be effective. Luckily, with advancements in diagnostic imaging techniques include MRI scans, stroke patients now have more time.

An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked. This cuts off blood flow and oxygen to the surrounding tissue. The tissue directly surrounding a blockage is known as the core. During a stroke, the core tissue cannot be saved. The lack of oxygen leads to rapid cell-death in this region.

Endovascular thrombectomy is the surgical procedure that removes the artery blockage. This returns the blood flow to brain tissues, bringing life-giving oxygen. The quicker blood flow can be restored to the surrounding tissue, the less damage will occur. Thanks to recent clinical studies, the window for stroke treatment has widened from six hours up to 16 hours.

MRI Scans and Stroke Treatment in the DEFUSE 3 Trial

A trial study conducted in 38 U.S. medical centers found that advanced brain cell imaging, called perfusion imaging, can identify more patients who are eligible for stroke treatment. Automated software known as RAPID works to analyze MRI or CT scans. Researchers using this software found that patients had salvageable brain tissue up to 16 hours after a stroke.

Patients who participated in the Endovascular Therapy Following Imaging Evaluation for the Ischemic Stroke (DEFUSE 3) trial randomly received either endovascular thrombectomy plus standard medical therapy, or medical therapy alone. The DEFUSE 3 researchers found that removing a blockage up to 16 hours after a stroke led to better outcomes for patients when compared to standard stroke treatment plans.

The patients who had a blockage removed up to 16 hours after symptoms had better recoveries after 90 days compared to the patients from the control group. Forty-five percent of the endovascular thrombectomy patients gained functional independence and had a better survival rate, whereas in the control group, only 17 percent gained functional independence.

AHA/ASA Recommendations for Stroke Treatment Updated

This development in emergency stroke treatment will help save lives, and is significant enough to change the approach for handling strokes in general. As of January 24, 2018, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association recommends a thrombectomy, for eligible patients, 6-16 hours after a stroke — and even up to 24 hours after the event for patients who meet certain conditions.

Stroke treatments should still occur as soon as possible after symptoms show. Still, this discovery opens up more options for patients who cannot get immediate help upon symptoms appearing. This includes patients who live in rural areas without access to nearby medical facilities.

This isn’t a new type of MRI or CT scan. It’s simply an incredible new use of technology that precisely determines which patients will benefit from a life-saving surgery. That’s a great step forward in the science of stroke treatment.