Predictors of fatal brain edema in massive hemispheric ischemic stroke

Scott E. Kasner, Andrew M. Demchuk, Jörg Berrouschot, Erich Schmutzhard, Lutz Harms, Piero Verro, Julio A. Chalela, Rekha Abbur, Harold McGrade, Ioannis Christou, Derk W. Krieger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

253 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose - Early identification of stroke patients at risk for fatal brain edema may be useful in selecting patients for aggressive interventions. Prior studies suggested that early nausea/vomiting and major hypodensity on baseline computed tomography (CT) were predictive of herniation. Methods - This study was a retrospective multicenter case-control study of patients with large middle cerebral artery (MCA) strokes admitted within 48 hours of symptom onset. Medical records, laboratory data, and CT scans were analyzed. Cases, defined as patients who died of massive brain swelling, were compared with all remaining patients as controls. Results - Two hundred one patients with large MCA strokes were identified: 94 (47%) died of brain swelling, 12 (6%) died of non-neurological causes, and 95 (47%) survived at day 30. Multivariable analysis, adjusted for age and clustered by center, identified the following predictors of fatal brain edema: history of hypertension (OR 3.0, 95% CI 1.2 to 7.6, P=0.02), history of heart failure (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.5 to 3.0, P<0.001), elevated white blood cell count (OR 1.08 per 1000 white blood cells/μL, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.14, P=0.02), >50% MCA hypodensity (OR 6.3, 95% CI 3.5 to 11.6, P<0.001), and involvement of additional vascular territories (anterior cerebral artery, posterior cerebral artery, or anterior choroidal artery; OR 3.3, 95% CI 1.2 to 9.4, P=0.02). Initial level of consciousness, National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale score, early nausea/vomiting, and serum glucose were associated with neurological death in bivariable but not multivariable analyses. Conclusions - Among patients with large MCA infarctions, an increased risk of fatal brain edema is associated with history of hypertension or heart failure, increased baseline white blood cell count, major early CT hypodensity involving >50% of the MCA territory, and involvement of additional vascular territories. These data confirm and expand on prior research with a broad-based patient population. The presence of these risk factors identifies those stroke patients who may require aggressive therapeutic approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2117-2123
Number of pages7
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2001


  • Brain edema
  • Stroke mortality
  • Stroke, acute

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Neuroscience(all)


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