Stroke recovery and lesion reduction following acute isolated bilateral ischaemic pontine infarction: a case report

Ourania Varsou, Michael Stringer, Catarina Dinis Fernandes, Christian Schwarzbauer, Mary Joan MacLeod

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Although pontine strokes account for a small percentage of all ischaemic events, they can be associated with significant initial disability. These lesions may be missed on computed tomography and therefore magnetic resonance imaging is generally preferred for the assessment of brainstem strokes. The aetiopathogenesis of isolated pontine infarcts, not due to a significant compromise (occlusion or dissection) in the vertebrobasilar territory, still remains to be fully characterised. These strokes present with different symptoms, depending on the lesion location and size, partly reflecting the anatomical variability of the vertebrobasilar vessels. Progressive neurological deterioration is relatively common and has been associated with the extension of such lesions. However, many patients with significant infarcts in the pons will do well in the future and initial diffusion-weighted imaging may not add useful prognostication to the clinical assessment. We discuss here a case where an initially progressive presentation was associated with a marked improvement in both clinical and radiological assessments at 42 days.

Case presentation
A 49-year-old white British man presented with left-sided weakness, incoordination, unsteadiness, cerebellar ataxic dysarthria and dysphonia. A baseline magnetic resonance imaging scan with diffusion-weighted imaging, T1-weighted and T2-weighted sequences showed an acute bilateral pontine infarct. On a repeat scan at 42 days, there was a 57.5% decrease in the size of the lesion on the high-resolution three-dimensional T1-weighted image and a corresponding improvement in the symptoms and the clinical assessments of this patient. The reduction in infarct size was also comparable to the decrease calculated between the baseline diffusion-weighted and the follow-up fluid attenuated inversion recovery sequences.

This case report discusses the significant clinical improvement and corresponding lesion reduction in a patient that presented with worsening neurological symptoms and was diagnosed with acute bilateral ischaemic pontine infarction. Further studies, utilising structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging with follow-up scans, are needed to provide better insights into the underlying aetiopathology and recovery mechanisms of pontine stroke. These will help define the relationship between imaging parameters and outcome allowing for better prognosis along with the development of relevant rehabilitation programs for this group of patients.
Original languageEnglish
Article number728
JournalBMC Research Notes
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

The initial scan was offered as part of the standard clinical service provided by NHS Grampian and the follow-up scan was funded by a grant from the NHS Grampian Endowments Trust (grant number 12/35). We thank Dr Olive Robb, Dr Arnab Rana, Professor Alison Murray for reporting the imaging scans, Lisa Marshall for providing information regarding the patient’s on-going community physiotherapy input following discharge from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Gordon Buchan for his technical support during scanning, the research radiographers (Baljit Jagpal, Beverly Maclennan, Nichola Crouch and Katrina Klaasen), the Aberdeen Biomedical Imaging Centre staff especially Teresa Morris and Dawn Younie for coordinating the scanning appointments, the stroke research nurses (Anu Joyson, Heather Gow and Janice Irvine) and above all the patient for agreeing to take part in this case study.


  • acute stroke
  • pontine stroke
  • Pons
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • MRI


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