Ivy sign: a diagnostic and prognostic biomarker for pediatric moyamoya

Alaa S. Montaser, Harishchandra Lalgudi Srinivasan, Steven J. Staffa, David Zurakowski, Anna L. Slingerland, Darren B. Orbach, Moran Hausman-Kedem, Jonathan Roth, Edward R. Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Ivy sign is a radiographic finding on FLAIR MRI sequences and is associated with slow cortical blood flow in moyamoya. Limited data exist on the utility of the ivy sign as a diagnostic and prognostic tool in pediatric patients, particularly outside of Asian populations. The authors aimed to investigate a modified grading scale with which to characterize the prevalence and extent of the ivy sign in children with moyamoya and evaluate its efficacy as a biomarker in predicting postoperative outcomes, including stroke risk. Methods: Pre- and postoperative clinical and radiographic data of all pediatric patients (21 years of age or younger) who underwent surgery for moyamoya disease or moyamoya syndrome at two major tertiary referral centers in the US and Israel, between July 2009 and August 2019, were retrospectively reviewed. Ivy sign scores were correlated to Suzuki stage, Matsushima grade, and postoperative stroke rate to quantify the diagnostic and prognostic utility of ivy sign. Results: A total of 171 hemispheres in 107 patients were included. The median age at the time of surgery was 9 years (range 3 months-21 years). The ivy sign was most frequently encountered in association with Suzuki stage III or IV disease in all vascular territories, including the anterior cerebral artery (53.7%), middle cerebral artery (56.3%), and posterior cerebral artery (47.5%) territories. Following surgical revascularization, 85% of hemispheres with Matsushima grade A demonstrated a concomitant, statistically significant reduction in ivy sign scores (OR 5.3, 95% CI 1.4-20.0; p = 0.013). Postoperatively, revascularized hemispheres that exhibited ivy sign score decreases had significantly lower rates of postoperative stroke (3.4%) compared with hemispheres that demonstrated no reversal of the ivy sign (16.1%) (OR 5.5, 95% CI 1.5-21.0; p = 0.008). Conclusions: This is the largest study to date that focuses on the role of the ivy sign in pediatric moyamoya. These data demonstrate that the ivy sign was present in approximately half the pediatric patients with moyamoya with Suzuki stage III or IV disease, when blood flow was most unstable. The authors found that reversal of the ivy sign provided both radiographic and clinical utility as a prognostic biomarker postoperatively, given the statistically significant association with both better Matsushima grades and a fivefold reduction in postoperative stroke rates. These findings can help inform clinical decision-making, and they have particular value in the pediatric population, as the ability to minimize additional radiographic evaluations and tailor radiographic surveillance is requisite.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-466
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


FundersFunder number
Marcus Chae Moyamoya Fund


    • ivy sign
    • moyamoya disease
    • pediatric moyamoya
    • vascular disorders


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