Effects of statins on progression of subclinical brain infarct

Cerebrovasc Dis. 2010;30(1):51-6. doi: 10.1159/000313614. Epub 2010 Apr 29.


Background: Subclinical brain infarct (SBI) is associated with subsequent stroke and cognitive decline. A longitudinal epidemiological study suggests that statins may prevent development of SBI. We investigated the effects of statins upon development of brain infarct by performing a post-hoc analysis of the Regression of Cerebral Artery Stenosis (ROCAS) study.

Methods: The ROCAS study is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the effects of simvastatin 20 mg daily upon progression of asymptomatic middle cerebral artery stenosis among stroke-free individuals over 2 years. A total of 227 subjects were randomized to either placebo (n = 114) or simvastatin 20 mg daily (n = 113). The number of brain infarcts as detected by MRI was recorded at baseline and at the end of the study. The primary outcome measure was the number of new brain infarcts at the end of the study.

Results: Among the 227 randomized subjects, 33 (14.5%) had SBI at baseline. At the end of the study, significantly fewer subjects in the active group (n = 1) had new brain infarcts compared with the placebo group (n = 8; p = 0.018). The new brain infarcts of subjects in the active group were subclinical. Among the placebo group, the new brain infarcts of 3 subjects were symptomatic while those of the remaining 5 subjects were subclinical. Among putative variables, multivariate regression analysis showed that only the baseline number of SBIs (OR = 6.27, 95% CI 2.4-16.5) and simvastatin treatment (OR = 0.09, 95% CI 0.01-0.82) independently predicted the development of new brain infarcts.

Conclusions: Consistent with findings of the epidemiological study, our study suggests that statins may prevent the development of a new brain infarct.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • China / epidemiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Infarction, Middle Cerebral Artery / drug therapy*
  • Infarction, Middle Cerebral Artery / epidemiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Simvastatin / therapeutic use*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Simvastatin