What is the role of large-artery occlusion in the etiology of ischemic stroke?

Updated: May 27, 2020
  • Author: Edward C Jauch, MD, MS, FAHA, FACEP; Chief Editor: Helmi L Lutsep, MD  more...
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Large-artery occlusion typically results from embolization of atherosclerotic debris originating from the common or internal carotid arteries or from a cardiac source. A smaller number of large-artery occlusions may arise from plaque ulceration and in situ thrombosis. Large-vessel ischemic strokes more commonly affect the MCA territory, with the ACA territory affected to a lesser degree. (See the images below.)

Noncontrast computed tomography (CT) scan in a 52- Noncontrast computed tomography (CT) scan in a 52-year-old man with a history of worsening right-sided weakness and aphasia demonstrates diffuse hypodensity and sulcal effacement with mass effect involving the left anterior and middle cerebral artery territories consistent with acute infarction. There are scattered curvilinear areas of hyperdensity noted suggestive of developing petechial hemorrhage in this large area of infarction.
Magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) in a 52-year-ol Magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) in a 52-year-old man demonstrates occlusion of the left precavernous supraclinoid internal carotid artery (ICA, red circle), occlusion or high-grade stenosis of the distal middle cerebral artery (MCA) trunk and attenuation of multiple M2 branches. The diffusion-weighted image (right) demonstrates high signal confirmed to be true restricted diffusion on the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) map consistent with acute infarction.
Maximum intensity projection (MIP) image from a co Maximum intensity projection (MIP) image from a computed tomography angiogram (CTA) demonstrates a filling defect or high-grade stenosis at the branching point of the right middle cerebral artery (MCA) trunk (red circle), suspicious for thrombus or embolus. CTA is highly accurate in detecting large- vessel stenosis and occlusions, which account for approximately one third of ischemic strokes.

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