More severe white matter changes in the elderly with jugular venous reflux

Ann Neurol. 2011 Mar;69(3):553-9. doi: 10.1002/ana.22276. Epub 2011 Mar 9.


Objective: The etiology of age-related white matter changes is unclear. Cerebral white matter changes on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and progressive dementia have been reported in patients with dural arteriovenous fistulas of the sigmoid sinus. The frequency of jugular venous reflux, which mimics a dural arteriovenous fistula, significantly increases with age. We investigated whether jugular venous reflux was associated with the severity of age-related white matter changes in 97 persons (aged 55-90 years, mean [standard deviation]: 75.77 [8.19] years; 55 men) from a medical center memory clinic.

Methods: MRI (1.5T) and the semiquantitative Scheltens scale were used to investigate the severity of white matter changes. Subjects were classified into 3 groups (no, mild, and severe jugular venous reflux) by duplex ultrasonography.

Results: Subjects with severe jugular venous reflux had more severe age-related white matter changes in occipital subcortical, thalamus, pontine, and summed infratentorial regions compared with subjects with no jugular venous reflux (all corrected p < 0.0166), especially subjects aged ≥75 years (corrected p < 0.0166 in occipital subcortical; corrected p < 0.0001 in pontine and summed infratentorial regions). In subjects ≥75 years, we further noted that the whole brain age-related white matter changes rating scores were higher in the severe jugular venous reflux group than the no and mild jugular venous reflux groups (corrected p < 0.0166).

Interpretation: People with severe jugular venous reflux exhibit more severe age-related white matter changes, especially in caudal brain regions. We also demonstrate age-dependent jugular venous reflux effects on the severity of age-related white matter changes. These findings may provide new clues into the pathophysiology of age-related white matter changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Jugular Veins / diagnostic imaging*
  • Jugular Veins / physiopathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Ultrasonography