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December 1990

White Matter Hyperintensities in Dementia of Alzheimer's Type and in Healthy Subjects Without Cerebrovascular Risk Factors: A Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study

Author Affiliations

From the Laboratory of Neurosciences, National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

Arch Neurol. 1990;47(12):1306-1310. doi:10.1001/archneur.1990.00530120050009

• T2-weighted (0.5 T) magnetic resonance images were used to study the prevalence of subcortical white matter hyperintensities (WMHIs) in 22 patients with dementia of Alzheimer's type (DAT), 20 age-matched older healthy control subjects, and 10 younger healthy control subjects. Exclusionary criteria for all groups included cerebrovascular risk factors. All subjects had Hachinski Ischemic Index scores of less than 2 and computed tomographic scans showing no infarct. The WMHIs were classified as periventricular WMHIs or deep WMHIs and graded 0 through 3 (0 indicated absent, and 3, severe). For the group with DAT and older control subjects, periventricular WMHIs and deep WMHIs were graded 2 or 3 in fewer than 17% and 27% of subjects, respectively, whereas in the younger control subjects, all ratings were grade 1 or less. Serum cholesterol and systolic blood pressure values, although within the normal range, were elevated significantly in older control subjects when compared with those in younger control subjects. No significant differences in WMHI ratings, blood pressure, cholesterol, or triglyceride levels were found between patients with DAT and age-matched control subjects. Systolic blood pressure levels correlated with the severity of periventricular WMHIs only in older control subjects. Age correlated with periventricular WMHIs and deep WMHIs within both the older control subjects and the patients with DAT. There was no significant correlation between WMHIs and the severity of dementia in the group with DAT. These results suggest that, in subjects screened for cerebrovascular risk factors, WMHIs are rare and occur with identical frequency in patients with DAT as in age-matched healthy control subjects. Furthermore, cognitive decline does not correlate with the severity of WMHIs in patients with DAT without cerebrovascular risk factors.

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