Extent of FLAIR Hyperintense Vessels May Modify Treatment Effect of Thrombolysis: A Post hoc Analysis of the WAKE-UP Trial


Background and Aims: Fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) hyperintense vessels (FHVs) on MRI are a radiological marker of vessel occlusion and indirect sign of collateral circulation. However, the clinical relevance is uncertain. We explored whether the extent of FHVs is associated with outcome and how FHVs modify treatment effect of thrombolysis in a subgroup of patients with confirmed unilateral vessel occlusion from the randomized controlled WAKE-UP trial.

Methods: One hundred sixty-five patients were analyzed. Two blinded raters independently assessed the presence and extent of FHVs (defined as the number of slices with visible FHV multiplied by FLAIR slice thickness). Patients were then separated into two groups to distinguish between few and extensive FHVs (dichotomization at the median <30 or ≥30).

Results: Here, 85% of all patients (n = 140) and 95% of middle cerebral artery (MCA) occlusion patients (n = 127) showed FHVs at baseline. Between MCA occlusion patients with few and extensive FHVs, no differences were identified in relative lesion growth (p = 0.971) and short-term [follow-up National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score; p = 0.342] or long-term functional recovery [modified Rankin Scale (mRS) <2 at 90 days poststroke; p = 0.607]. In linear regression analysis, baseline extent of FHV (defined as a continuous variable) was highly associated with volume of hypoperfused tissue (β = 2.161; 95% CI 0.96–3.36; p = 0.001). In multivariable regression analysis adjusted for treatment group, stroke severity, lesion volume, occlusion site, and recanalization, FHV did not modify functional recovery. However, in patients with few FHVs, the odds for good functional outcome (mRS) were increased in recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rtPA) patients compared to those who received placebo [odds ratio (OR) = 5.3; 95% CI 1.2–24.0], whereas no apparent benefit was observed in patients with extensive FHVs (OR = 1.1; 95% CI 0.3–3.8), p-value for interaction was 0.11.

Conclusion: While the extent of FHVs on baseline did not alter the evolution of stroke in terms of lesion progression or functional recovery, it may modify treatment effect and should therefore be considered relevant additional information in those patients who are eligible for intravenous thrombolysis.

Clinical Trial Registration: Main trial (WAKE-UP): ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01525290; and EudraCT, 2011-005906-32. Registered February 2, 2012.



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