BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Early CT signs in the deep middle cerebral artery (MCA) territories have been reported to be seen at the initial period of ischemia. We attempted to investigate the incidence of parenchymal hypodensity within 3 hours after ischemic onset among patients with angiographically proved embolic MCA occlusion and to assess the correlation of subtle hypodensity in the deep MCA territories with involvement of the lenticulostriate arteries in the presence of ischemia. METHODS: Fifty CT images obtained within 3 hours after onset of embolic MCA occlusion were retrospectively reviewed by three neurosurgeons who were aware of clinical features. Early CT signs in the deep MCA territories were divided into three grades according to their anatomic location: grade I, normal basal ganglia with hypodensity localized to the insula; grade II, partial obscuration of the posterolateral part of the putamen; and grade III, hypodensity of the entire lentiform nucleus. A grade I CT sign was considered to be a negative finding for lenticulostriate artery involvement, whereas grade II and III CT signs were considered to be positive findings. Site of occlusion and involvement of the lenticulostriate arteries were confirmed by angiography. RESULTS: Thirty-eight (76%) of 50 patients had early CT signs in the deep MCA territories. Sensitivity and specificity of a grade I CT sign indicating absence of lenticulostriate artery involvement in ischemia were 65% and 87%, respectively. On the other hand, sensitivity and specificity of grade II and grade III CT signs for presence of lenticulostriate artery involvement in ischemia were 77% and 100%, respectively. Grade II CT signs resulted from various sites of occlusion, whereas grade III was unequivocally predictive of proximal occlusion to all of the lenticulostriate arteries. CONCLUSION: Involvement of the lenticulostriate arteries may be presumed by precise evaluation of subtle, CT-revealed hypodensity in the deep MCA territories, even within 3 hours of ischemic onset.
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