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Imaging for Neuroprognostication After Cardiac Arrest: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis



Predicting neurological outcome in comatose survivors of cardiac arrest relies on clinical findings, radiological and neurophysiological test results. To evaluate the predictive accuracy of brain computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for prognostication of neurological outcomes after cardiac arrest.


We searched MEDLINE (database inception to August 2018) and included all observational cohort studies or randomized controlled trials including adult (16 years or older) survivors of cardiac arrest which evaluated the diagnostic accuracy of CT or MRI for predicting neurologic outcome or mortality. Study quality was assessed using the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies 2 tool. All review stages were conducted independently by 2 reviewers, and where possible data were pooled using bivariate meta-analysis. The main outcome was to evaluate the of accuracy of CT and MRI in neuroprognostication of patients after cardiac arrest.


We included 44 studies that examined brain CT (n = 24) or MRI (n = 21) in 4008 (n per study, 9-398) patients. Decreased grey to white matter ratio on CT (20 studies) was useful for predicting poor neurological outcome (sensitivity 0.44, 95% CI 0.29-0.60; specificity 0.97, 95% CI 0.93-0.99; positive likelihood ratio [LR+] 13.8, 95% CI 6.9-27.7). Similarly, diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) on MRI (16 studies; sensitivity 0.77, 95% CI 0.65-0.85; specificity 0.92, 95% CI 0.85-0.96; LR+ 9.2, 95% CI 5.2-16.4) and DWI and fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) MRI (4 studies, sensitivity 0.70, 95% CI 0.43-0.88; specificity 0.95, 95% CI 0.79-0.99; LR+ 13.4, 95% CI 3.5-51.2) were useful for predicting poor neurological outcomes. We found marked heterogeneity in timing of radiological examinations and neurological assessments relative to the cardiac arrest.


Decreased grey to white matter ratio on CT and DWI or DWI and FLAIR on MRI are useful adjuncts for predicting poor early neurological outcome after cardiac arrest.

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CLS, LD, CCH, AK, RP, NKJA, DCS contributed to the concept and design of study. CLS and LD contributed to the acquisition of data. CLS, LD, CCH, AK, RP, NKJA, DCS contributed to the analyses and interpretation of data. CLS, LD, CCH, AK, RP, NKJA, DCS contributed to the drafting and critical revision of manuscript. NKJA and DCS contributed to the supervision of study. NKJA and DCS contributed equally to this study.

Correspondence to Damon C. Scales.

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Lopez Soto, C., Dragoi, L., Heyn, C.C. et al. Imaging for Neuroprognostication After Cardiac Arrest: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Neurocrit Care 32, 206–216 (2020).

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  • Cardiac arrest
  • Computed tomography imaging
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Brain anoxia
  • Prognosis