Investigating secondary white matter degeneration following ischemic stroke by modelling affected fiber tracts

Ivana Kancheva, Floor Buma, Gert Kwakkel, Angelina Kancheva, Nick Ramsey, Mathijs Raemaekers

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Secondary white matter degeneration is a common occurrence after ischemic stroke, as identified by Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI). However, despite recent advances, the time course of the process is not completely understood. The primary aim of this study was to assess secondary degeneration using an approach whereby we create a patient-specific model of damaged fibers based on the volumetric characteristics of lesions. We also examined the effects of secondary degeneration along the modelled streamlines at different distances from the primary infarction using DTI. Eleven patients who presented with upper limb motor deficits at the time of a first-ever ischemic stroke were included. They underwent scanning at weeks 6 and 29 post-stroke. The fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), primary eigenvalue (λ1), and transverse eigenvalue (λ23) were measured. Using regions of interest based on the simulation output, the differences between the modelled fibers and matched contralateral areas were analyzed. The longitudinal change between the two time points and across five distances from the primary lesion was also assessed using the ratios of diffusion quantities (rFA, rMD, rλ1, and rλ23) between the ipsilesional and contralesional hemisphere. At week 6 post-stroke, significantly decreased λ1 was found along the ipsilesional corticospinal tract (CST) with a trend towards lower FA, reduced MD and λ23. At week 29 post-stroke, significantly decreased FA was shown relative to the non-lesioned side, with a trend towards lower λ1, unchanged MD, and higher λ23. Along the ipsilesional tract, the rFA diminished, whereas the rMD, rλ1, and rλ23 significantly increased over time. No significant variations in the time progressive effect with distance were demonstrated. The findings support previously described mechanisms of secondary degeneration and suggest that it spreads along the entire length of a damaged tract. Future investigations using higher-order tractography techniques can further explain the intravoxel alterations caused by ischemic injury.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102945
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Early online date22 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • DTI simulation
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Ischemic stroke
  • Motor deficit
  • Secondary degeneration
  • Tractography database

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