Neuropathologic substrates of ischemic vascular dementia

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2000 Nov;59(11):931-45. doi: 10.1093/jnen/59.11.931.


Ischemic vascular dementia (IVD) is a relatively uncommon entity, in the course of which multiple ischemic brain lesions result in progressive cognitive and memory impairment. Ischemic brain lesions may also aggravate the neuropsychologic deficit of Alzheimer disease (AD). In this review we summarize our experience based upon autopsy examination of the central nervous system in 20 patients (age range 68-92 years) enrolled in a longitudinal investigation of structural, neurochemical, functional neuroimaging, and neuropsychologic components of IVD, especially dementia associated with cerebral microvascular disease. While cystic infarcts were present in the CNS of 5 patients, the most commonly observed neuropathologic abnormalities were lacunar infarcts and microinfarcts--both types of lesion were encountered in over half of patients' brains. Evidence of (remote) hippocampal injury was found in 11/20 patients. Severe atherosclerosis and arterio/ arteriolosclerosis were both associated with the occurrence of multiple lacunar infarcts. Pronounced cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) was noted in a single patient, who also showed other microscopic changes of severe AD. While fairly unusual as a nosologic entity, IVD appears to correlate with widespread small ischemic lesions distributed throughout the CNS. We furthermore propose an approach to quantifying the burden of ischemic vascular and parenchymal disease that may be associated with a dementia syndrome. A brief review of neuropathologic features of vascular dementia (both familial and sporadic) is presented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology*
  • Cerebral Infarction / pathology*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / pathology
  • Dementia, Vascular / pathology*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male