Mild cognitive impairment in stroke patients with ischemic cerebral small-vessel disease: a forerunner of vascular dementia?

Expert Rev Neurother. 2009 Aug;9(8):1201-17. doi: 10.1586/ern.09.73.


Ischemic cerebral small-vessel disease accounts for a third of acute cerebral ischemic events and contributes to the development of cognitive decline and dementia. Cerebral small-vessel disease can be visualized on MRI studies as lacunar infarcts, white matter lesions and cerebral microbleeds. In general, the short-term prognosis of ischemic cerebral small-vessel disease compared with other stroke subtypes is more favorable, with almost negligible early mortality, absence of neuropsychological impairment and excellent neurological recovery. However, it has been shown recently that the proportion of dementia caused by small-vessel disease ranges from 36 to 67%. On the other hand, patients with a first-ever lacunar infarction present with cognitive impairment (mainly executive dysfunction) in more than half of cases and more than 55% of patients fulfil the criteria of mild cognitive impairment of the vascular type. Moreover, patients with small-vessel disease have an increase in the mid- and long-term risk of death, stroke recurrence and dementia. Neuropsychological abnormalities in small-vessel disease occurred more frequently than previously recognized. Ischemic cerebral small-vessel disease should be regarded as a potentially severe condition prodrome of subcortical vascular dementia rather than a relatively benign disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Infarction / pathology
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology
  • Dementia, Vascular / etiology*
  • Dementia, Vascular / pathology
  • Humans
  • Stroke / complications*
  • Stroke / pathology