BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Calcified cerebral emboli are a rarely reported but devastating cause of stroke and may be the first manifestation of vascular or cardiac disease. Our aim was to evaluate the diagnosis, prevalence, imaging appearance, presumed embolic source, treatment, and outcome of patients with calcified cerebral emboli. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Our radiology information system was searched for all CT scans by using keywords “calcified,” “emboli,” and their permutations. The radiology information system was also searched to identify all “stroke” CT reports to calculate the prevalence of calcified cerebral emboli. We also performed a MEDLINE search to identify all published case reports. RESULTS: Twenty-two cases were identified from our database, and 48 were cases reported from the literature. The middle cerebral artery was the site of 83% of calcified emboli. Presumed sources were calcific aortic stenosis (36%), carotid atherosclerotic plaque (30%), and mitral annular calcification (11%). Spontaneous embolism occurred in 86%. Surgical treatment was performed in 34% of patients. Sixty-four percent of the patients with calcified aortic stenosis underwent aortic valve replacement. Among those with identifiable arterial disease, 53% underwent endarterectomy. Forty-one percent of patients experienced at least 1 recurrent stroke. The prevalence of calcified cerebral emboli identified on stroke CT scans at our institution was 2.7%. Seventy-three percent of cases were correctly identified. Twenty-seven percent were misdiagnosed on initial interpretation, while 9% were overlooked on preliminary interpretation. CONCLUSIONS: Calcified cerebral emboli are more common than previously assumed, are frequently overlooked or misinterpreted, affect clinical course when diagnosed, and carry substantial risk for recurrent stroke.
American Journal of Neuroradiology – American Journal of Neuroradiology
Published: Aug 1, 2014