Background and purpose: Inflammatory processes are involved in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Inflammation has been known as a risk factor for coronary heart disease, whereas inflammation as a risk for cerebrovascular disease is less well established. Whether inflammatory processes, excluded from their involvement in large-vessel disease, are implicated in the pathogenesis of cerebral small vessel disease remains unclear. We assessed whether higher C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were associated with an increased number of lacunar infarcts or severity of white matter lesions.
Methods and results: In a community-based group of Japanese elderly (n=689), CRP concentrations were measured using a highly sensitive assay. All participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and cerebral small vessel disease-related lesions (lacunar infarcts and white matter hyperintensity) were subsequently evaluated. Furthermore, carotid atherosclerosis was also assessed with ultrasonography. As the grades of white matter hyperintensity and the numbers of lacunes were considered small vessel disease-related lesions, we evaluated the relationships between CRP levels and small vessel disease-related brain lesions. Interestingly, the median CRP concentration of our participants was remarkably lower, being approximately one third or one quarter of the value of Western populations. Subjects with higher CRP levels tended to have more small vessel disease-related lesions; however, these associations were not seen after adjustment for cardiovascular risk factors and carotid atherosclerosis.
Conclusions: The relationship between CRP levels and small vessel disease-related lesions was not apparent in the community-based Japanese elderly. The impact of inflammation in the pathogenesis of small vessel disease-related brain lesions seems to be weak among the Japanese elderly.