Introduction: Malignant cerebral edema develops in a small subset of patients with hemispheric strokes, precipitating deterioration and death if decompressive hemicraniectomy (DHC) is not performed in a timely manner. Predicting which stroke patients will develop malignant edema is imprecise based on clinical data alone. Head computed tomography (CT) imaging is often performed at baseline and 24-h. We determined the incremental value of incorporating imaging-derived features from serial CTs to enhance prediction of malignant edema. Methods: We identified hemispheric stroke patients at three sites with NIHSS ≥ 7 who had baseline as well as 24-h clinical and CT imaging data. We extracted quantitative imaging features from baseline and follow-up CTs, including CSF volume, intracranial reserve (CSF/cranial volume), as well as midline shift (MLS) and infarct-related hypodensity volume. Potentially lethal malignant edema was defined as requiring DHC or dying with MLS over 5-mm. We built machine-learning models using logistic regression first with baseline data and then adding 24-h data including reduction in CSF volume (ΔCSF). Model performance was evaluated with cross-validation using metrics of recall (sensitivity), precision (predictive value), as well as area under receiver-operating-characteristic and precision-recall curves (AUROC, AUPRC). Results: Twenty of 361 patients (6%) died or underwent DHC. Baseline clinical variables alone had recall of 60% with low precision (7%), AUROC 0.59, AUPRC 0.15. Adding baseline intracranial reserve improved recall to 80% and AUROC to 0.82 but precision remained only 16% (AUPRC 0.28). Incorporating ΔCSF improved AUPRC to 0.53 (AUROC 0.91) while all imaging features further improved prediction (recall 90%, precision 38%, AUROC 0.96, AUPRC 0.66). Conclusion: Incorporating quantitative CT-based imaging features from baseline and 24-h CT enhances identification of patients with malignant edema needing DHC. Further refinements and external validation of such imaging-based machine-learning models are required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)785-792
Number of pages8
JournalNeurocritical Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Cerebral edema
  • Imaging
  • Prediction models
  • Regression
  • Stroke


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