Objective: Silent brain infarctions are the silent cerebrovascular events that are distinguished from symptomatic lacunar infarctions by their 'silence'; the origin of these infarctions is still unclear. This study analyzed the characteristics of silent and symptomatic lacunar infarctions and sought to explore the mechanism of this 'silence'.
Methods: In total, 156 patients with only silent brain infarctions, 90 with only symptomatic lacunar infarctions, 160 with both silent and symptomatic lacunar infarctions, and 115 without any infarctions were recruited. Vascular risk factors, leukoaraiosis, and vascular assessment results were compared. The National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale scores were compared between patients with only symptomatic lacunar infarctions and patients with two types of infarctions. The locations of all of the infarctions were evaluated. The evolution of the two types of infarctions was retrospectively studied by comparing the infarcts on the magnetic resonance images of 63 patients obtained at different times.
Results: The main risk factors for silent brain infarctions were hypertension, age, and advanced leukoaraiosis; the main factors for symptomatic lacunar infarctions were hypertension, atrial fibrillation, and atherosclerosis of relevant arteries. The neurological deficits of patients with only symptomatic lacunar infarctions were more severe than those of patients with both types of infarctions. More silent brain infarctions were located in the corona radiata and basal ganglia; these locations were different from those of the symptomatic lacunar infarctions. The initial sizes of the symptomatic lacunar infarctions were larger than the silent brain infarctions, whereas the final sizes were almost equal between the two groups.
Conclusions: Chronic ischemic preconditioning and nonstrategic locations may be the main reasons for the 'silence' of silent brain infarctions.