Objectives: To investigate whether severity and progression of periventricular and deep white matter lesions (WML) and lacunar infarcts were associated with progression of brain atrophy.
Methods: Within the SMART-MR study, a prospective cohort on MRI changes in patients with symptomatic atherosclerotic disease, 565 patients (57 ± 9 years) without large infarcts had vascular screening and 1.5 T MRI at baseline and after a mean follow-up of 3.9 years. With automated brain segmentation, total brain, cortical gray matter, ventricular, and WML volumes were estimated and expressed relative to intracranial volume (%). Lacunar infarcts were rated manually.
Results: Using linear regression analyses adjusted for demographics and vascular risk factors, periventricular WML volume at baseline was associated with greater decrease in cortical gray matter volume (B = -1.73%, 95% confidence interval [CI] -3.15% to -0.30%, per 1% WML volume increase) and greater increase in ventricular volume (B = 0.12%, 95% CI 0.04% to 0.20%). Progression of periventricular WML volume corresponded with a greater decrease in cortical gray matter volume (B = -0.45%, 95% CI -0.9% to 0%) and greater increase in ventricular volume (B = 0.15%, 95% CI 0.1% to 0.2%). Presence of lacunar infarcts was associated with greater decline in total brain volume (B = -0.25%, 95% CI -0.49% to -0.01%) and progression of lacunar infarcts with a greater decrease of total brain (B = -0.30%, 95% CI -0.59% to 0.01%) and cortical gray matter volume (B = -0.81%, 95% CI -1.43% to -0.20%).
Conclusions: In patients with symptomatic atherosclerotic disease, presence and progression of periventricular WML and lacunar infarcts is associated with greater progression of brain atrophy independent of vascular risk factors.