Asymptomatic brain ischemic injury detected with diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DWI) is reported in more than one-half of patients after cardiac surgery. There are conflicting findings on whether DWI-detected covert stroke is associated with neurocognitive dysfunction after surgery, and it is unclear whether such ischemic injury affects quality of life or behavioral outcomes. The purpose of this study was to perform exploratory analysis on whether covert stroke after cardiac surgery is associated with delayed neurocognitive recovery 1 month after surgery, impaired quality of life, anxiety, or depression.
Analysis of data collected in a prospectively randomized study in patients undergoing cardiac surgery testing whether basing mean arterial pressure (MAP) targets during cardiopulmonary bypass to be above the lower limit of cerebral autoregulation versus usual practices reduces the frequency of adverse neurological outcomes. A neuropsychological testing battery was administered before surgery and then 1 month later. Patients underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) between postoperative days 3 and 5. The primary outcome was DWI-detected ischemic lesion; the primary end point was change from baseline in domain-specific neurocognitive Z scores 1 month after surgery. Secondary outcomes included a composite indicator of delayed neurocognitive recovery, quality of life measures, state and trait anxiety, and Beck Depression Inventory scores.
Of the 164 patients with postoperative MRI data, clinical stroke occurred in 10 patients. Of the remaining 154 patients, 85 (55.2%) had a covert stroke. There were no statistically significant differences for patients with or without covert stroke in the change from baseline in Z scores in any of the cognitive domains tested adjusted for sex, baseline cognitive score, and randomization treatment arm. The frequency of delayed neurocognitive recovery (no covert stroke, 15.1%; covert stroke, 17.6%; P = .392), self-reported quality of life measurements, anxiety rating, or depression scores were not different between those with or without DWI ischemic injury.
More than one-half of patients undergoing cardiac surgery demonstrated covert stroke. In this exploratory analysis, covert stroke was not found to be significantly associated with neurocognitive dysfunction 1 month after surgery; evidence of impaired quality of life, anxiety, or depression, albeit a type II error, cannot be excluded.