Objective: Lacunar infarctions are mainly due to 2 microvascular pathologies: lipohyalinosis and microatheroma. Little is known about risk factor differences for these subtypes. We hypothesized that diabetes and glycated hemoglobin (HbA(1)c) would be related preferentially to the lipohyalinotic subtype.
Methods: We performed a cross-section analysis of the brain MRI data from 1,827 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. We divided subcortical lesions ≤ 20 mm in diameter into those ≤ 7 mm (of probable lipohyalinotic etiology) and 8-20 mm (probably due to microatheroma) and used Poisson regression to investigate associations with the number of each type of lesion. Unlike previous studies, we also fitted a model involving lesions <3 mm.
Results: Age (prevalence ratio [PR] 1.11 per year; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.08-1.14), black ethnicity (vs white, PR 1.66; 95% CI 1.27-2.16), hypertension (PR 2.12; 95% CI 1.61-2.79), diabetes (PR 1.42; 95% CI 1.08-1.87), and ever-smoking (PR 1.34; 95% CI 1.04-1.74) were significantly associated with lesions ≤ 7 mm. Findings were similar for lesions <3 mm. HbA(1)c, substituted for diabetes, was also associated with smaller lesions. Significantly associated with 8-20 mm lesions were age (PR 1.14; 95% CI 1.09-1.20), hypertension (PR 1.79; 95% CI 1.14-2.83), ever-smoking (PR 2.66; 95% CI 1.63-4.34), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (PR 1.27 per SD; 95% CI 1.06-1.52). When we analyzed only participants with lesions, history of smoking (PR 1.99; 95% CI 1.23-3.20) and LDL (PR 1.33 per SD; 95% CI 1.08-1.65) were associated with lesions 8-20 mm.
Conclusions: Smaller lacunes (even those <3 mm) were associated with diabetes and HbA(1)c, and larger lacunes associated with LDL cholesterol, differences which support long-held theories relating to their underlying pathology. The findings may contribute to broader understanding of cerebral microvascular disease.