To systematically review the literature for reversible diffusion-weighted imaging (DWIR) lesions and to describe its prevalence, predictors, and clinical significance.
Studies were included if the first DWI MRI was performed within 24 hours of stroke onset and follow-up DWI or fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR)/T2 was performed within 7 or 90 days, respectively, to measure DWIR. We abstracted clinical, imaging, and outcomes data.
Twenty-three studies met the study criteria. The prevalence of DWIR was 26.5% in DWI-based studies and 6% in FLAIR/T2-based studies. DWIR was associated with recanalization or reperfusion of the ischemic tissue with or without the use of tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) or endovascular therapy, earlier treatment with t-PA, shorter time to endovascular therapy after MRI, and absent or less severe perfusion deficit within the DWI lesion. DWIR was associated with early neurologic improvement in 5 of 6 studies (defined as improvement in the NIH Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score by 4 or 8 points from baseline or NIHSS score 0 to 2 at 24 hours after treatment or at discharge or median NIHSS score at 7 days) and long-term outcome in 6 of 7 studies (defined as NIHSS score ≤1, improvement in the NIHSS score ≥8 points, or modified Rankin Scale score up to ≤2 at 30 or 90 days) likely due to reperfusion.
DWIR is seen in up to a quarter of patients with acute ischemic stroke, and it is associated with good clinical outcome following reperfusion. Our findings highlight the pitfalls of DWI to define ischemic core in the early hours of stroke.