Stroke is one of the most frequent diseases which can cause invalidity or death. MRI of the brain-supplying vessels provides the opportunity to detect vascular constriction or aneurysmatic vasodilation at an early stage. The long-term individual stroke risk can be reduced by timely detection and therapy of such changes.
Approx. 200,000 people suffer strokes in Germany each year. It is the second most frequent cause of death after heart attack. There are two different kinds of stroke: ischemic stroke and haemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke occurs as a result of sudden obstruction of a blood vessel. Similar to a heart attack, there is usually constriction of cervical vessels or cerebral vessels, which frequently does not cause any symptoms before. During a haemorrhagic stroke, cerebral haemorrhage is caused by a burst aneurysm, i.e. localised dilation of a brain vessel. Approximately 3% of adults in Germany have such an aneurysm, but not every aneurysm has to burst.
Diagnostic investigation of the cervical and cerebral vessels is usually performed by magnetic resonance imaging. Possible vascular constriction (stenoses) or dilation (aneurysm) can be examined and detected without the use of X-rays. Since not every stenosis or every aneurysm requires treatment, imaging can provide crucial hints whether therapy should possibly be performed. This decision is taken by the attending specialists, for example, in neuroradiology or neurosurgery.
The risk of ischemic stroke as well as heart attack is increased:
- In smokers
- In the case of high blood pressure (arterial hypertonia)
- In the case of diabetes mellitus
- In the case of raised blood lipid levels (cholesterol)
- In the case of overweight
- In the case of hereditary predisposition
The risk of haemorrhagic stroke is also increased in smokers, in the case of high blood pressure as well in the case of some diseases with weakness of the connective tissue. Aneurysms can run in the family so that imaging of brain vessels should be performed in case of familial clustering of aneurysm.
Examination of the brain vessels is performed together with a head examination. During diagnostic investigation of the cervical and brain vessels, a well-tolerated, gadolinium contrast agent may be required during the examination depending on the issue at hand, which is administered intravenously in an arm.