Fluid-Attenuated Inversion Recovery MR Imaging and Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: Not a Panacea

Mona Mohamed, D. Cressler Heasely, Banu Yagmurlu, David M. Yousem

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) constitutes an important neurologic emergency. Some authors have suggested that fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) MR imaging can detect SAH that may not be apparent on CT scans but may be revealed by lumbar puncture. We sought to determine how often FLAIR MR imaging findings are positive for SAH in cases with negative CT findings and positive lumbar puncture results. METHODS: The CT scans and FLAIR MR images of all patients with suspected SAH during a 3-year interval (2000-2002) were retrospectively reviewed by a blinded reader. Among these cases, we identified 12 with CT findings that were negative for SAH, lumbar puncture results that were positive for SAH, and FLAIR MR imaging findings that were available for review. Eleven of the 12 patients had undergone FLAIR MR imaging within 2 days of CT and lumbar puncture. The 12 patients with negative CT findings were comprised of six male and six female patients with an age range of 7 to 69 years. We evaluated the true and false negative and positive FLAIR MR imaging findings for SAH by using the lumbar puncture results as the gold standard. The FLAIR MR imaging findings of 12 additional patients without SAH (as revealed by lumbar puncture) were used as control data for a blinded reading. RESULTS: For all 12 control cases without SAH, the FLAIR MR imaging findings were interpreted correctly. Of the 12 cases that had positive lumbar puncture results but false-negative CT findings for SAH, FLAIR MR imaging findings were true-positive in only two cases and were false-negative in 10. One of the two true-positive cases had the highest concentration of RBC in the series (365 k/cc), and the other had the second highest value of RBC (65 k/cc). CONCLUSION: FLAIR MR imaging cannot replace lumbar puncture to detect the presence of SAH. FLAIR MR imaging findings are infrequently positive (16.7%) when CT findings are negative for SAH. This is likely because there is a minimum concentration of RBC/cc that must be exceeded for CSF to become hyperintense on FLAIR MR images.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-550
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Fluid-Attenuated Inversion Recovery MR Imaging and Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: Not a Panacea'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this