Basilar artery atherosclerotic plaques in paramedian and lacunar pontine infarctions: a high-resolution MRI study.
Pontine infarction is most often related to basilar artery atherosclerosis when the lesion abuts on the basal surface (paramedian pontine infarction), whereas small medial pontine lesion is usually attributed to small vessel lipohyalinosis. A previous study has found that high-resolution MRI can detect basilar atherosclerotic plaques in up to 70% of patient with paramedian pontine infarction, even in patients with normal angiograms, but none has evaluated the presence of basilar artery plaque by high-resolution MRI in patients with small medial pontine lesion in the medial part of the pons. Consecutive patients with pontine infarction underwent basilar angiography using time-of-flight and contrast-enhanced 3-dimensional MR angiography to assess the presence of basilar artery stenosis and high-resolution MRI to assess the presence of atherosclerotic plaque. Basilar artery angiogram was scored as "normal," "irregular," or "stenosed" >or=30%" and basilar artery by high-resolution MRI was scored as "normal" or "presence of plaque." Medial pontine infarcts were divided into paramedian pontine infarction and small medial pontine lesion groups. Forty-one patients with pontine infarction were included, 26 with paramedian pontine infarction and 15 with small medial pontine lesion. High-resolution MRI detected basilar artery atherosclerosis in 42% of patients with a pontine infarction and normal basilar angiograms. Among patients with paramedian pontine infarction, 65% had normal basilar angiograms but 77% had basilar artery atherosclerosis detected on high-resolution MRI. Among patients with small medial pontine lesion, 46% had normal basilar angiograms but 73% had basilar artery plaques detected on by high-resolution MRI. This study suggests that medial pontine lacunes may be due to a penetrating artery disease secondary to basilar artery atherosclerosis. High-resolution MRI could help precise stroke subtyping.