Prognostic value of the hyperdense middle cerebral artery sign and stroke scale score before ultraearly thrombolytic therapy

Thomas Tomsick, Thomas Brott, William Barsan, Joseph Broderick, E. Clarke Haley, Judith Spilker, Jane Khoury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

204 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To determine the relationship between the hyperdense middle cerebral artery sign (HMCAS) and neurologic deficit, as evidenced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) stroke scale score, and to determine the relationship of the HMCAS and the NIH stroke scale score to arteriographic findings after thrombolytic therapy. METHODS: Fifty-five patients with acute ischemic stroke were rated on the NIH stroke scale, were examined with CT, and were treated with intravenous alteplase within 90 minutes of symptom onset. Presence of the HMCAS was determined on the baseline CT scan by a neuroradiologist blinded to the patient's neurologic deficit. Patients with the HMCAS were compared with those without the HMCAS with regard to baseline NIH stroke scale score, 2-hour NIH stroke scale score, findings at posttreatment arteriography, 3-month residual neurologic deficit, and 3- month ischemia volumes as evidenced on CT scans. RESULTS: Eighteen patients (33%) had the HMCAS. These patients had a median baseline NIH stroke scale score of 19.5 compared with a median score of 10 for the patients lacking the HMCAS sign. At 3 months, one (6%) of the HMCAS-positive patients was completely improved neurologically compared with 17 (47%) of the HMCAS- negative patients. Restricting analysis to those patients with a stroke scale score of 10 or greater (n = 37), 18 HMCAS-positive patients showed less early neurologic improvement, were less likely to be completely improved at 3 months, and had larger infarcts compared with the 19 HMCAS-negative patients. Compared with the HMCAS-positive and HMCAS-negative patients with a stroke scale score of 10 or greater, patients with a stroke scale score of less than 10 had fewer occlusive changes of the internal carotid and middle cerebral arteries on posttreatment arteriograms and had a better neurologic recovery at 3 months. CONCLUSION: The presence of the HMCAS on CT scans obtained within 90 minutes of stroke onset is associated with a major neurologic deficit, and in this study it predicted a poor clinical and radiologic outcome after intravenous thrombolytic therapy. However, a major neurologic deficit, defined as a stroke scale score of 10 or more, was better than a positive HMCAS as a predictor of poor neurologic outcome after thrombolytic therapy. Patients with a low stroke scale score (<10) may benefit from ultraearly intravenous alteplase therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-85
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996


  • Arteries, cerebral, middle
  • Brain, infarction
  • Thrombolysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology


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