What is the role of perfusion-weighted imaging (PWI) in the workup of acute stroke?

Updated: Dec 09, 2020
  • Author: Souvik Sen, MD, MPH, MS, FAHA; Chief Editor: Helmi L Lutsep, MD  more...
  • Print


With perfusion-weighted imaging (PWI), information about the perfusion status of the brain is available. The most commonly used technique is bolus-contrast tracking. The imaging is based on the monitoring of a nondiffusible contrast material (gadolinium) passing through brain tissue.

The signal intensity declines as contrast material passes through the infarcted area and returns to normal as it exits this area. A curve is derived from this tracing data (ie, signal washout curve), which represents and estimates the cerebral blood volume (CBV).

An arterial input function can be derived by measuring an artery in lower brain slices or by measuring gadolinium concentration that is proportional to the changes in T2 when gadolinium is used at low doses (< 3 mg/kg). Based on this arterial input function, quantitative maps of cerebral blood flow (CBF), CBV, mean transit time (MTT), time to peak (TTP), and various other hemodynamic parameters can be obtained. Considerable debate surrounds the choice of which PWI parameter should be used. Most centers in the United States use time domain parameters, such as MTT or TTP.

Arterial spin-labeled (ASL) PWI permits noninvasive quantification of CBF without the use of contrast agent. There are two distinct forms of ASL that are used clinically: 1) continuous ASL (CASL) and 2) pseudocontinuous ASL (PCASL). A 2015 guideline paper outlines the methodological details of these individual techniques. [1]

The use of DWI and PWI together has been shown to be superior to the use of conventional MRI in early phases and up to 48 hours after the onset of stroke. Using a combination of DWI and PWI is very important, because together they provide information about the location and extent of infarction within minutes of onset; when performed in series, they can provide information about the pattern of evolution of the ischemic lesion. This information may be of great importance in choosing the appropriate treatment modality and in predicting the outcome and prognosis. [2]

The lesion usually enlarges on serial DWI over a period of several days. It has been suggested that this enlargement can be halted if reperfusion (ie, resolution of original PWI lesion) occurs early enough. Lesions that are not large on initial PWI do not show this enlargement.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!