The association of chronic kidney disease with brain lesions on MRI or CT: a systematic review

Maturitas. 2012 Apr;71(4):331-6. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2012.01.008. Epub 2012 Feb 10.


Background and purpose: This review reports on the association between chronic kidney disease (CKD) established with glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and brain lesions established with MRI or CT.

Methods: Literature was searched combining synonyms of kidney function, brain lesions and terms for the definitions thereof, and MRI or CT. This resulted in 1507 articles, of which 20 were finally included.

Results: Cross-sectional studies found an association between GFR and white matter lesions (WML) with 7 out of 11 associations significant (odds ratios (OR) GFR, continuous variable: 0.84-0.89 per 10 ml/min/1.73 m(2)). Most significant results were found in studies including subjects from the general population. GFR was associated with silent cerebral infarcts (SCI) with 9 out of 12 associations significant (OR GFR, continuous variable: 0.96-0.99 per ml/min/1.73 m(2)). Brain atrophy was reported significant 4 out of 5 associations (OR GFR, continuous variable: 0.64 per 10 ml/min/1.73 m(2)). Additionally, 2 follow up studies were included. One established that serum creatinine at baseline is a significant predictor of the presence of SCI; the other that the presence of SCI at baseline is a significant predictor of a decrease in GFR.

Conclusion: The results from this review show that CKD is associated with brain lesions. These brain lesions include WML, SCI and brain atrophy. This finding is of clinical importance because these brain lesions are predictive of stroke, cognitive decline and dementia. Additional follow up studies should be performed to better understand the causative pathway and to establish whether screening and preventive programs are beneficial.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Atrophy
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Diseases / blood
  • Brain Diseases / etiology*
  • Brain Diseases / pathology
  • Cerebral Infarction / blood
  • Cerebral Infarction / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Dementia / etiology*
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate*
  • Humans
  • Leukoencephalopathies / etiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Radiography
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / blood
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / complications*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Creatinine