Objective: The purpose of the study was to examine change in volume of hyperintense white matter lesions in a cohort of community-dwelling elderly subjects without neuropsychiatric disease. SUBJECTS AND METHODS. One hundred seventeen volunteers underwent brain MR imaging on a 1.5-T scanner. Demographic data and the presence of specific medical illnesses were recorded at the time of the initial scanning. Hyperintense white matter lesion volume was measured using a supervised semiautomated technique that seeded lesions and then created a segmented lesion image. Subjects underwent repeated MR imaging at a mean of 25 months. Mean change in lesion volume and mean percentage of change were determined between the two time points. Logistic regression models were used to examine the differential effects of age, sex, race, and self-reported medical morbidity.
Results: Mean baseline volume of cerebral hyperintense lesions was 4.91 cc, and at 2-year follow-up, it was 6.42 cm(2) (p < 0.0001), for a mean increase of 26.7%. Comparable results were seen in separate analyses of hemispheric hyperintense lesion volumes. Neither sex, race, nor baseline hyperintense lesion volume was significantly associated with an interval increase in lesion volume. Age (p = 0.0117) and presence of diabetes (p = 0.0215) were associated with greater change.
Conclusion: Elderly subjects exhibited approximately a 27% increase in hyperintense lesion volume over a 2-year period, a finding influenced by both age and medical comorbidity rates. Because hyperintense lesions can be associated with several neuropsychiatric conditions, further research is needed to determine if interventions designed to slow hyperintense lesion disease progression may improve neuropsychiatric outcomes.