Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Journal articles

Heterogeneity of small vessel disease: a systematic review of MRI and histopathology correlations

Abstract : Background: White matter hyperintensities (WMH), lacunes and microbleeds are regarded as typical MRI expressions of cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) and they are highly prevalent in the elderly. However, clinical expression of MRI-defined SVD is generally moderate and heterogeneous. By reviewing studies that directly correlated postmortem MRI and histopathology, this paper aimed to characterize the pathological substrates of SVD in order to create more understanding as to its heterogeneous clinical manifestation. Summary: Postmortem studies showed that WMH is also heterogeneous in terms of histopathology. Damage to the tissue ranges from slight disentanglement of the matrix to varying degrees of myelin and axonal loss. Glial cell responses include astrocytic reactions, e.g. astrogliosis and clasmatodendrosis, as well as loss of oligodendrocytes and distinct microglial responses. Lipohyalinosis, arteriosclerosis, vessel wall leakage and collagen deposition in venular walls are recognized microvascular changes. Suggested pathogenetic mechanisms are ischemia/hypoxia, hypoperfusion due to altered cerebrovascular autoregulation, blood-brain barrier leakage, inflammation, degeneration and amyloid angiopathy. Only a few postmortem MRI studies have addressed lacunes and microbleeds so far. Cortical microinfarcts and changes in the normal appearing white matter are 'invisible' on conventional MRI, but are nevertheless expected to contribute substantially to clinical symptoms. Conclusion: Pathological substrates of WMH are heterogeneous in nature and severity, which may partly explain the weak clinicoradiological associations found in SVD. Lacunes and microbleeds have been relatively understudied and need to be further investigated. Future studies should also take into account 'MRI-invisible' SVD features and consider the use of e.g. quantitative MRI techniques, to increase the sensitivity of MRI for these abnormalities and study their effect on clinical functioning.
Document type :
Journal articles
Complete list of metadata

Cited literature [102 references]  Display  Hide  Download
Contributor : Hal Peer <>
Submitted on : Saturday, April 9, 2011 - 2:51:43 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 11, 2018 - 2:30:02 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Thursday, March 30, 2017 - 9:19:25 AM


Files produced by the author(s)




Alida A. Gouw, Alexandra Seewann, Wiesje M. van der Flier, F Barkhof, Annemieke M. Rozemuller, et al.. Heterogeneity of small vessel disease: a systematic review of MRI and histopathology correlations. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, BMJ Publishing Group, 2010, 82 (2), pp.126. ⟨10.1136/jnnp.2009.204685⟩. ⟨hal-00584605⟩



Record views


Files downloads