What MRI features predict anticoagulant-induced intracerebral haemorrhage?

MRI predicts intracranial hemorrhage in patients who receive long-term oral anticoagulation.

Martí-Fàbregas J, Medrano-Martorell S, Merino E, et al; HERO study investigators

Neurology 2019; 92:e2432-e2443.



We tested the hypothesis that the risk of intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) in patients with cardioembolic ischemic stroke who are treated with oral anticoagulants (OAs) can be predicted by evaluating surrogate markers of hemorrhagic-prone cerebral angiopathies using a baseline MRI.


Patients were participants in a multicenter and prospective observational study. They were older than 64 years, had a recent cardioembolic ischemic stroke, and were new users of OAs. They underwent a baseline MRI analysis to evaluate microbleeds, white matter hyperintensities, and cortical superficial siderosis. We collected demographic variables, clinical characteristics, risk scores, and therapeutic data. The primary endpoint was ICH that occurred during follow-up. We performed bivariate and multivariate Cox regression analyses.


We recruited 937 patients (aged 77.6 ± 6.5 years; 47.9% were men). Microbleeds were detected in 207 patients (22.5%), moderate/severe white matter hyperintensities in 419 (45.1%), and superficial siderosis in 28 patients (3%). After a mean follow-up of 23.1 ± 6.8 months, 18 patients (1.9%) experienced an ICH. In multivariable analysis, microbleeds (hazard ratio 2.7, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1-7, p = 0.034) and moderate/severe white matter hyperintensities (hazard ratio 5.7, 95% CI 1.6-20, p = 0.006) were associated with ICH (C index 0.76, 95% CI 0.66-0.85). Rate of ICH was highest in patients with both microbleed and moderate/severe WMH (3.76 per 100 patient-years, 95% CI 1.62-7.4).


Patients taking oral antocoagulants who have advanced cerebral small vessel disease, evidenced by microbleeds and moderate to severe white matter hyperintensities, had an increased risk of intracerebral haemorrhage. Our results should help to determine the risk of prescribing OA for a patient with cardioembolic stroke.

This paper is cited in the neurochecklist:

Intracerebral haemorrhage (ICH): causes and risk factors 

Abstract link

Internet Archive Book Images on Flickr.

By Ibrahim Imam

I am a UK Neurologist keen on general neurology, but with an interest in neuromuscular diseases. I maintain the neurology searchable database, I also blog at I share and discuss current issues around clinical neurology. I hope you find my blogs enlightening, practical, and even entertaining.

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