Diagnosis and management of vascular cognitive impairment and dementia

J Neural Transm Suppl. 2002:(63):91-109. doi: 10.1007/978-3-7091-6137-1_6.


Vascular dementias (VaDs) are the second most common cause of dementia. Cerebrovascular disease (CVD) and stroke relates to high risk of cognitive impairment, but also relate to Alzheimer's disease (AD): Vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) and dementias extend beyond the traditional multi-infarct dementia. Pathophysiology of VaD incorporates interactions between vascular etiologies (CVD and vascular risk-factors), changes in the brain (infarcts, white matter lesions, atrophy), host factors (age, education) and cognition. Variation in defining the cognitive syndrome, in vascular etiologies, and allowable brain changes in current criteria have resulted in variable estimates of prevalence, of groups of subjects, and of the types and distribution of putative causal brain lesions. Should new criteria be developed? Ideally in constructing new criteria the diagnostic elements should be tested with prospective studies with clinical-pathological correlation: replace dogma with data. Meanwhile focus on more homogenous subtypes of VaD, and on imaging criteria could be a solution. Subcortical ischemic vascular disease and dementia (SIVD) incorporate small vessel disease as the chief vascular etiology, lacunar infarct and ischaemic white matter lesions as primary type of brain lesions, subcortical location as the primary location of lesions, and subcortical syndrome as the primary clinical manifestation. It incorporates two clinical entities "Binswanger's disease" and "the lacunar state". AD with VaD (mixed dementia) has been underestimated as a prevalent cause in the older population. In addition to simple co-existence, VaD and AD have closer interaction: several vascular risk factors and vascular brain changes relate to clinical manifestation of AD, and they share also common pathogenetic mechanisms. Vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) is a category aiming to replace the "Alzhemerized" dementia concept in the setting of CVD, and substitute it with a spectrum that includes subtle cognitive deficits of vascular origin, post-stroke dementia, and the complex group of the vascular dementias. As far there is no standard treatment for VaDs, and still little is known on the primary prevention (brain at risk for CVD) and secondary prevention (CVD brain at risk for VCI/VaD). There is no standard symptomatic treatment for VaD. Recently symptomatic cholinergic treatment has shown promise in AD with VaD, as well as probable VaD. Future focus should be directed to the distinct etiological and pathological factors: the vascular and the AD burden of the brain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / complications
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / complications*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / therapy*
  • Dementia, Vascular / diagnosis*
  • Dementia, Vascular / epidemiology
  • Dementia, Vascular / etiology
  • Dementia, Vascular / therapy*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / complications