Cerebral microbleeds shouldn't dictate treatment of acute stroke: A retrospective cohort study evaluating risk of intracerebral hemorrhage

Martin A. Chacon-Portillo, Rafael H. Llinas, Elisabeth B. Marsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (IV tPA) after acute ischemic stroke carries the risk of symptomatic intracerebral hemorrhage (sICH). Cerebral microbleeds (CMBs) may indicate increased risk of hemorrhage and can be seen on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In this study, we examined the association between CMBs and sICH, focusing on the predictive value of their presence, burden, and location. Methods: Records from all patients presenting to two academic stroke centers with acute ischemic stroke treated with IV tPA over a 5-year period were retrospectively reviewed. Demographic, medical, and imaging variables were evaluated. The presence, number, and location (lobar vs nonlobar) of CMBs were noted on gradient echo MRI sequences obtained during the admission. Univariable and multivariable statistical models were used to determine the relationship between CMBs and hemorrhagic (symptomatic and asymptomatic) transformation. Results: Of 292 patients (mean age 62.8 years (SD 15.3), 49% African-American, 52% women), 21% (n = 62) had at least one CMB, 1% (n = 3) had > 10 CMBs, and 1% (n = 3) were diagnosed with probable cerebral amyloid angiopathy. After treatment, 16% (n = 46) developed hemorrhagic transformation, of which 6 (2%) were sICH. There was no association between CMB presence (p = .135) or location (p = .325) with sICH; however, those with a high CMB burden (> 10 CMB) were more likely to develop sICH (OR 37.8; 95% CI: 2.7-539.3; p = .007). Conclusions: Our findings support prior findings that a high CMB burden (> 10) in patients with acute stroke treated with IV tPA are associated with a higher risk of sICH. However, the overall rate of sICH in the presence of CMB is very low, indicating that the presence of CMBs by itself should not dictate the decision to treat with thrombolytics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number33
JournalBMC neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 27 2018


  • Cerebral microbleed
  • Intracerebral hemorrhage
  • Intravenous thrombolysis
  • Stroke
  • Thrombolytic therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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