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Keywords:

  • diagnosis;
  • ischemic stroke;
  • stroke mimics;
  • vascular endothelial growth factor

Background and purpose

It has previously been reported that serum levels of vascular endothelial growth factor are raised after acute ischemic stroke compared to healthy controls. The aim of this prospective study was to ascertain whether serum vascular endothelial growth factor measurements could be used to distinguish between acute ischemic stroke and common stroke mimics in the emergency room.

Methods

Blood samples were taken on arrival to hospital and daily for six-days, in 44 patients with suspected ischemic stroke (29 acute infarcts and 15 stroke mimics), arriving within 24 h of symptom onset. Vascular endothelial growth factor levels were measured by enzyme-linked immunoassay. The neurological deficit was recorded daily using the National Institute of Health Stroke Scale. Evaluation of infarct volumes was based on diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging.

Results

Serum vascular endothelial growth factor levels were significantly raised in acute ischemic stroke patients on the day of symptom onset and at all other time points, compared to healthy controls (P < 0·01). The sensitivity and specificity of vascular endothelial growth factor for diagnosing acute ischemic stroke on admission to hospital were only 69% and 73%, respectively. Vascular endothelial growth factor levels were also elevated in four out of 15 stroke mimics, including three patients presenting with postictal paresis.

Conclusions

Vascular endothelial growth factor has limited clinical utility in the diagnosis of acute ischemic stroke in the emergency room because levels are also raised in common stroke mimics. Further studies are required to establish the mechanism of vascular endothelial growth factor elevation in postictal paresis.