Diffusion- and perfusion-weighted brain magnetic resonance imaging in patients with neurologic complications after cardiac surgery

R. J. Wityk, M. A. Goldsborough, A. Hillis, N. Beauchamp, P. B. Barker, Jr Borowicz, G. M. McKhann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Background: Neurologic complications after cardiac surgery include stroke, encephalopathy, and persistent cognitive impairments. More precise neuroimaging of patients with these complications may lead to a better understanding of the etiology and treatment of these disorders. Objective: To study the pattern of ischemic changes on diffusion- and perfusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DWI, and MRPI, respectively) in patients with neurologic complications after cardiac surgery. Methods: All records were reviewed of our patients undergoing cardiac surgery in the previous year who also underwent postoperative DWI or MRPI. Neurologic symptoms, vascular studies, and the pattern of ischemic changes were recorded. Acute ischemic lesions were classified as having a territorial, watershed, or lacunar pattern of infarction. Patients with multiple territorial infarcts in differing vascular distributions that were not explained by occlusive vascular lesions were classified as having multiple emboli. Results: Fourteen patients underwent DWI and 4 underwent MRPI. Acute infarcts were found in 10 of 14 patients by DWI as compared with 5 of 12 patients by computed tomography. Eight patients presented with encephalopathy (associated with focal neurologic deficits in 4), 4 with focal deficits alone, and 2 with either fluctuating symptoms or transient ischemic attacks. Among patients with encephalopathy, 7 of 8 had patterns of infarction suggestive of multiple emboli, including 3 of 4 patients with no focal neurologic deficits. Several patients had combined watershed and multiple embolic patterns of ischemia. Findings of MRPI studies were abnormal in 2 of 4 patients, showing diffusion-perfusion mismatch; both patients had either fluctuating deficits or transient ischemic attacks, and their conditions improved with blood pressure manipulation. Conclusions: In patients with neurologic symptoms after cardiac surgery, DWI is more sensitive to ischemic change than computed tomographic scanning and can demonstrate patterns of infarction that may help us understand etiology. The most common pattern was multiple embolic infarcts. Preliminary experience with MRPI suggests that some patients have persistent diffusion-perfusion mismatch after surgery and may benefit from therapeutic intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-576
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology


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