Stroke: indications for emergent surgical intervention.

H. J. Pikus, R. C. Heros

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


As the brain attack message is disseminated throughout our medical community and the awareness of the public increases, neurosurgeons will have the opportunity to treat patients with stroke at a much earlier time in the evolution of the process than we have been accustomed. Are the relatively unimpressive results of acute surgical intervention in patients operated on later in the course of the disease applicable to those who seek medical attention early, within the first few hours of ictus? There is little firm data. However, there is an overwhelming amount of anecdotal and experimental evidence supporting the potential for ultra-early intervention, which frequently should be surgical. New surgical techniques may improve safety and feasibility of emergent operations. In the coming years, diagnostic techniques such as perfusion/diffusion magnetic resonance imaging will allow the clinician to determine who may benefit from intervention. These determinations will be made on physiological data, addressing the issues of tissue viability and degree of compromise of the blood-brain barrier. In the future, the window of opportunity for intervention will not be solely a function of time from ictus or a qualitative impression based on collateral circulation as extrapolated from angiography, transcranial Doppler, or magnetic resonance angiography. These new magnetic resonance imaging techniques, which are beginning to be tested clinically or are still in the developmental stages, will provide the functional data now provided by positron emission tomography and xenon computed tomography, but with improved sensitivity, specificity, and logistical ease. Neurosurgeons have been leaders in stroke care and have provided some of the most important experimental rationale for the brain attack concept. These contributions include demonstration of the ischemic penumbra, the importance of time and potential collateral circulation as factors determining viability of ischemic tissue, and the value of early revascularization and many neuroprotective maneuvers in preserving brain tissue after arterial occlusion. There is every reason to preserve and to enhance the role of the neurosurgeon as a "stroke expert" and as a leading member of the brain attack team. Early access to patients with stroke will offer us the opportunity to test clinically, in a rigorous fashion, the value of surgical revascularization procedures (open or endovascular) and medical maneuvers that we have developed clinically and tested in the laboratory. We have shown, as we did with the bypass study, that neurosurgeons know how to perform these trials and abide by their results, even when they are not to our liking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-127
Number of pages15
JournalClinical neurosurgery
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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