Intracranial atherosclerosis: Review of imaging features and advances in diagnostics

Author Department

Neurology; Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Intracranial atherosclerotic disease is one of the leading causes of ischemic strokes and poses a moderate risk of recurrence. Diagnosis is currently limited to stenosis on luminal imaging, which likely underestimates the true prevalence of the disease. Detection of non-stenosing intracranial atherosclerosis is important in order to optimize secondary stroke prevention strategies. This review collates findings from the early seminal trials and the latest studies in advanced radiological techniques that characterize symptomatic intracranial atherosclerotic disease across various imaging modalities. While computed tomography angiography (CTA) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) comprise diagnostic mainstays in identifying stenotic changes secondary to atherosclerosis, emerging techniques such as high-resolution MRA, quantitative MRA, and computational fluid dynamics may reveal a myriad of other underlying pathophysiological mechanisms.

Keywords: Intracranial atherosclerosis; imaging; ischemic stroke.