Blink Reflex as a Complementary Test to MRI in Early Detection of Brainstem Infarctions: Comparison of Blink Reflex Abnormalities in Anterior Versus Posterior Circulation Strokes

K Basiri, M Zareh, S Khosravi


Background: Early detection of vertebro-basilar insufficiency is of paramount importance. Brain MRI was the only method of diagnosis for many years, but in addition to high cost and delay in report, it may not detect all brain stem lesions. In this study Blink reflex (BR) was evaluated as a complementary test to MRI. Methods: Fifty-four patients were studied [27 anterior circulation stroke patients (ACSP) and 27 posterior circulation stroke patients (PCSP)]. MRI was performed within the first week after the onset of stroke. Nineteen age and sex matched healthy people enrolled as controls. BR was performed within the first 24 hours of the onset. Frequency of abnormal blink reflex in ACSP and PCSP was compared with MRI findings. Then abnormal responses in two groups were compared by chi-square test. Results: In both ACSP and PCSP, two patients had normal BR responses, and in 25 patients R1 or R2 components of blink responses were absent or prolonged (92.5%). R1was absent or delayed in 16 PCSP, but it was abnormal in only two ACSP (P < 0.001). Abnormal R2 responses were detected in 22 PCSP and 24 ACSP. Conclusion: BR abnormalities had high correlation with MRI findings in PCSP (92.5%) BR can be performed within the first 24 hours of onset of stroke, and its results is available immediately. This test is easy to perform and comfortable for the patient, has low cost, and is available every where. Therefore we introduced BR as a complementary (but not replacing) test to MRI in early detection of brainstem infarctions. Comparison of BR responses in ACSP and PCSP showed that abnormalities of R1 responses had high accuracy in differentiation between anterior and posterior circulation strokes. We concluded that BR responses not only can detect brainstem infarctions rapidly and readily in its early stages, but also can differentiate ACSP from PCSP with high accuracy.
Keywords: Blink Reflex, Anterior Circulation Stroke, Posterior Circulation Stroke Patients, Magnetic Resonance Imaging,
Computed Tomography.

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