Background: Silent cerebral white matter lesions are observed on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in elderly people, and they are related to vascular risk factors, particularly hypertension. No data on the prevalence and risk factors of white matter lesions in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are available. The aim is to analyze the prevalence of white matter lesions and their determinants in this population.
Methods: We studied 52 patients without diabetes with CKD (stage 3 or 4) aged 30 to 60 years (average, 49 years) and a group of 32 normotensive control subjects. MRI studies were performed and subcortical and periventricular white matter lesions were evaluated by using semiquantitative measures. Patients were classified into 2 groups depending on the presence or absence of white matter lesions. Echocardiographic studies and measures of markers of systemic inflammation (C-reactive protein and interleukin 6) also were performed.
Results: White matter lesions were more prevalent in patients with CKD than controls (33% versus 6%; P = 0.008). Patients with CKD who had white matter lesions were older; had a greater history of cardiovascular disease and vascular nephropathy as a primary cause of renal disease and greater levels of systolic blood pressure, pulse pressure, left ventricular mass index, and C-reactive protein; and were administered more antihypertensive drugs than patients with CKD without white matter lesions. Stage and duration of CKD were not related to the presence of white matter lesions. After adjusting for several factors, only vascular nephropathy (odds ratio, 15.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.27 to 191.54; P = 0.03) independently predicted an increased risk for white matter lesions.
Conclusion: One third of middle-aged patients with CKD have silent cerebral white matter lesions. Vascular nephropathy seems to be the most important factor related to the presence of these lesions, suggesting that white matter lesions reflect ischemic brain damage caused by generalized vascular damage.