Risk factors for cerebral microbleeds in the elderly

Cerebrovasc Dis. 2008;26(4):397-403. doi: 10.1159/000151680. Epub 2008 Aug 28.


Background: To define the cardiovascular risk factors for cerebral microbleeds and to investigate the relationship between microbleeds on the one hand, and the volume of age-related white matter hyperintensities (WMH) and atrophy on the other in an elderly population.

Methods: Four hundred and thirty-nine elderly subjects (age range: 72-85; mean: 77) suffering from vascular disease or at high risk for developing this condition were included in this study. For each subject the number and localization of the microbleeds was recorded.

Results: The prevalence of microbleeds in this study was 24%. We found age and a history of hypertension to be risk factors for microbleeds. After regional subdivision systolic blood pressure was found to be a risk factor for microbleeds located in the basal ganglia. A history of hypertension was more prevalent in patients with corticosubcortical and basal ganglia microbleeds. Magnetic resonance imaging risk factors associated with one or more microbleeds were total WMH volume, subcortical WMH volume, and periventricular WMH volume. Total WMH volume and periventricular WMH volume were risk factors for corticosubcortical microbleeds and basal ganglia microbleeds.

Conclusion: A high prevalence of microbleeds was found in a population of patients suffering from vascular disease or at high risk for developing this condition. Age, hypertension and WMH were the most important risk factors for microbleeds, especially when located in the corticosubcortial junction or in the basal ganglia.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Basal Ganglia Cerebrovascular Disease / epidemiology*
  • Basal Ganglia Cerebrovascular Disease / pathology
  • Basal Ganglia Cerebrovascular Disease / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Hypertension / prevention & control
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / epidemiology*
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / pathology
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / prevention & control
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Pravastatin / therapeutic use
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Pravastatin