Effect of age and vascular anatomy on blood flow in major cerebral vessels

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2015 Feb;35(2):312-8. doi: 10.1038/jcbfm.2014.203. Epub 2014 Nov 12.


Measurement of volume flow rates in major cerebral vessels can be used to evaluate the hemodynamic effects of cerebrovascular disease. However, both age and vascular anatomy can affect flow rates independent of disease. We prospectively evaluated 325 healthy adult volunteers using phase contrast quantitative magnetic resonance angiography to characterize these effects on cerebral vessel flow rates and establish clinically useful normative reference values. Flows were measured in the major intracranial and extracranial vessels. The cohort ranged from 18 to 84 years old, with 157 (48%) females. All individual vessel flows and total cerebral blood flow (TCBF) declined with age, at 2.6 mL/minute per year for TCBF. Basilar artery (BA) flow was significantly decreased in individuals with one or both fetal posterior cerebral arteries (PCAs). Internal carotid artery flows were significantly higher with a fetal PCA and decreased with a hypoplastic anterior cerebral artery. Indexing vessel flows to TCBF neutralized the age effect, but anatomic variations continued to impact indexed flow in the BA and internal carotid artery. Variability in normative flow ranges were reduced in distal vessels and by examining regional flows. Cerebral vessel flows are affected by age and cerebrovascular anatomy, which has important implications for interpretation of flows in the disease state.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology
  • Carotid Artery, Internal* / anatomy & histology
  • Carotid Artery, Internal* / physiology
  • Cerebral Angiography
  • Cerebral Arteries* / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Arteries* / physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies