CNS small vessel disease: A clinical review

Rocco J CannistraroJames F Meschia


CNS small vessel disease (CSVD) causes 25% of strokes and contributes to 45% of dementia cases. Prevalence increases with age, affecting about 5% of people aged 50 years to almost 100% of people older than 90 years. Known causes and risk factors include age, hypertension, branch atheromatous disease, cerebral amyloid angiopathy, radiation exposure, immune-mediated vasculitides, certain infections, and several genetic diseases. CSVD can be asymptomatic; however, depending on location, lesions can cause mild cognitive dysfunction, dementia, mood disorders, motor and gait dysfunction, and urinary incontinence. CSVD is diagnosed on the basis of brain imaging biomarkers, including recent small subcortical infarcts, white matter hyperintensities, lacunes, cerebral microbleeds, enlarged perivascular spaces, and cerebral atrophy. Advanced imaging modalities can detect signs of disease even earlier than current standard imaging techniques. Diffusion tensor imaging can identify altered white matter connectivity, and blood oxygenation level-dependent imaging can identify decreased vascular reactivity. Pathogenesis is thought to begin with an etiologically specific insult, with or without genetic predisposition, which results in dysfunctio...Continue Reading


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