DOI: 10.1177/23969873231215634 ISSN: 2396-9873

Diagnostic separation of conventional ⩾50% carotid stenosis and near-occlusion with phase-contrast MRI

Madelene Holmgren, Alexander Henze, Anders Wåhlin, Anders Eklund, Allan J Fox, Elias Johansson
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Neurology (clinical)


The aim of this study was to assess sensitivity, specificity and interrater reliability of phase-contrast MRI (PC-MRI) for diagnosing carotid near-occlusion.

Patients and methods:

Prospective cross-sectional study conducted between 2018 and 2021. We included participants with suspected 50%–100% carotid stenosis on at least one side, all were examined with CT angiography (CTA) and PC-MRI and both ICAs were analyzed. Degree of stenosis on CTA was the reference test. PC-MRI-based blood flow rates in extracranial ICA and intracranial cerebral arteries were assessed. ICA-cerebral blood flow (CBF) ratio was defined as ICA divided by sum of both ICAs and Basilar artery.


We included 136 participants. The ICAs were 102 < 50% stenosis, 88 conventional ⩾50% stenosis (31 with ⩾70%), 49 near-occlusion, 12 occlusions, 20 unclear cause of small distal ICA on CTA and one excluded. For separation of near-occlusion and conventional stenoses, ICA flow rate and ICA-CBF ratio had the highest area under the curve (AUC; 0.98–0.99) for near-occlusion. ICA-CBF ratio ⩽0.225 was 90% (45/49) sensitive and 99% (188/190) specific for near-occlusion. Inter-rater reliability for this threshold was excellent (kappa 0.98). Specificity was 94% (29/31) for cases with ⩾70% stenosis. PC-MRI had modest performance for separating <50% and conventional ⩾50% stenosis (highest AUC 0.74), and eight (16%) of near-occlusions were not distinguishable from occlusion (no visible flow).


ICA-CBF ratio ⩽0.225 on PC-MRI is an accurate and reliable method to separate conventional ⩾50% stenosis and near-occlusion that is feasible for routine use. PC-MRI should be considered further as a potential standard method for near-occlusion detection, to be used side-by-side with established modalities as PC-MRI cannot separate other degrees of stenosis.

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