Morphometric analysis of arteriolar tortuosity in human cerebral white matter of preterm, young, and aged subjects

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2007 May;66(5):337-45. doi: 10.1097/nen.0b013e3180537147.


Arteriolar tortuousities, consisting of vascular coils, loops, and spirals, appear in white matter in a subset of human cerebral vessels. Computerized morphometry was used to analyze brain sections from a broad age range of subjects to determine whether tortuosity is a phenomenon of aging or is associated with leukoaraiosis (LA) or Alzheimer disease (AD). Autopsy brains were studied from 55 subjects ranging in age from 23 weeks postconception to 102 years. Fourteen aged subjects were diagnosed with LA and 7 with AD. By using computerized morphometry, vascular curl (curvilinear length/straight length) was measured in white matter arterioles in 100-microm-thick, alkaline phosphatase-stained sections. Aging subjects, compared with young subjects, showed significant increases in both the prevalence and severity of tortuosity. Curl scores in aged subjects with LA or AD were not significantly different from aged controls without LA or AD. We conclude that 1) tortuous vessels are extremely rare in preterm babies, children, or young adults; 2) significant tortuosity, as indicated by elevated curl scores, begins in middle age; 3) tortuosity does not appear in a subset of aged individuals regardless of longevity; and 4) tortuosity does not appear in a subset of individuals with either LA or AD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Autopsy / methods
  • Cerebral Arteries / pathology*
  • Cerebral Arteries / ultrastructure
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Leukoaraiosis / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmortem Changes