Background: Internal carotid artery occlusion (ICAO) is an important risk factor for stroke. Cerebral hemodynamics in patients with ICAO depends on the individual capacity to activate sufficient collateral pathways. Therefore, the assessment of intracranial collaterals is essential for the acute and long-term management of these patients and accurate estimation of further stroke risk.
Methods: Acute stroke patients with unilateral ICAO were prospectively enrolled. We assessed the following collaterals by transcranial color-coded sonography (TCCS): the anterior and posterior communicating artery (ACoA, PCoA), the ophthalmic artery (OA), and leptomeningeal collaterals of the posterior cerebral artery (LMC). We subdivided the flow pattern of the Doppler spectrum in the middle cerebral artery (MCA) into 3 categories: (1) good, (2) moderate, and (3) bad according to the hemodynamic effects on the ipsilateral MCA flow. Finally, we compared the individual TCCS results with the stroke pattern detected on CT or MRI scan.
Results: One hundred thirteen patients (age 66 +/- 12 years; female 24) were included. The collateral status was good, moderate, and bad in 59 (52%), 37 (33%), and 17 (15%) patients, respectively. The ACoA collateral was most frequently activated (81%), followed by the OA (63%), the PCoA (53%), and the LMC (22%). The quality of the collateral status was determined by the type (p = 0.0003) but not by the number (p = 0.19) of activated collateral pathways. Good collateral function was highly associated with primary collaterals (ACoA > PCoA). Best parameter for a good collateral status was an antegrade flow in the OA, indicating a high blood supply via the communicating arteries.
Conclusions: TCCS allows the assessment of intracranial collaterals and their hemodynamic capacity. Prevalence of collateral sufficiency in ICAO seems to be higher than previously reported. ACoA cross flow is essential for the optimal hemodynamic compensation of ICAO. Antegrade OA flow indicates good collateral status.