Background and purpose: Inflammation may contribute to cognitive impairment after stroke. Inflammatory markers are associated with hippocampal atrophy. We tested whether markers of inflammation, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and serum levels of C-reactive protein are associated with reduced hippocampal volume and poor cognitive performance among stroke survivors.
Methods: We analyzed 368 consecutive cases from our prospective study of first-ever mild-moderate stroke patients. MRI, cognitive tests, and inflammatory markers were determined. Patients were reevaluated 6 and 12 months after the event.
Results: ESR remained unchanged in follow-up examinations, suggesting a chronic inflammation background in some patients. Higher levels of C-reactive protein and ESR were associated with worse performance in cognitive tests, particularly memory scores. This association was maintained for ESR (but not C-reactive protein) after adjustment for confounders (P=0.002). Patients with smaller hippocampi had inferior cognitive results. Moreover, in a multivariate regression model, higher ESR values (but not C-reactive protein) were related to reduced hippocampal volume (P=0.049).
Conclusions: This report shows a strong relationship between ESR and hippocampal volume, as well as with cognitive performance among poststroke patients. This could plausibly relate to incipient cognitive decline via hippocampal pathways.