9 - Small-vessel diseases of the brain  pp. 118-130

Small-vessel diseases of the brain

By Raj N. Kalaria and Timo Erkinjuntti

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Introduction

A century ago, Alois Alzheimer and Emil Kraeplin, among other neuropsychiatrists, had formed an opinion that arteriosclerotic dementia resulting from gradual strangulation of the blood supply to the brain was the main cause of dementia (Berrios and Freeman,1991). Otto Binswanger then introduced the notion of subclasses of vascular dementia (VaD). He described subcortical arteriosclerotic encephalopathy upon pathological verification of cerebral white matter disorder in a group of eight patients (Berrios and Freeman, 1991). These historical considerations have some implications for treatment strategies. Today we accept that cerebrovascular disease (CVD) causes the second most common form of age-related dementia. VaD, or rather vascular cognitive impairment, can, however, result from all forms of cerebrovascular changes that also include delayed dementia post-stroke (O'Brien et al., 2003; Roman, 2002; Roman et al., 2002). The challenge of defining the pathological substrates of VaD is complicated by the heterogeneous nature of CVD and the co-existence of other pathologies, including Alzheimer-type lesions. Blood vessel size, origin of vascular occlusion and genetic factors are critical factors in defining subtypes of VaD (Table 9.1). Multi-infarct dementia (MID) is thought to involve large vessels and wide territories predominantly due to atherothrombotic and embolic events, which may cause up to 50% of all ischemic strokes, whereas Binswanger-type VaD involves subcortical regions including the white matter results from small-vessel changes.

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