Cerebral microbleeds: different prevalence, topography, and risk factors depending on dementia diagnosis—the Karolinska Imaging Dementia Study

AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2015 Apr;36(4):661-6. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A4176. Epub 2014 Dec 18.


Background and purpose: Cerebral microbleeds are thought to represent cerebral amyloid angiopathy when in lobar regions of the brain and hypertensive arteriopathy when in deep and infratentorial locations. By studying cerebral microbleeds, their topography, and risk factors, we aimed to gain an insight into the vascular and amyloid pathology of dementia diagnoses and increase the understanding of cerebral microbleeds in dementia.

Materials and methods: We analyzed 1504 patients (53% women; mean age, 63 ± 10 years; 10 different dementia diagnoses) in this study. All patients underwent MR imaging as part of the dementia investigation, and all their clinical parameters were recorded.

Results: Among the 1504 patients with dementia, 22% had cerebral microbleeds. Cerebral microbleed topography was predominantly lobar (P = .01) and occipital (P = .007) in Alzheimer disease. Patients with cerebral microbleeds were significantly older (P < .001), were more frequently male (P < .001), had lower cognitive scores (P = .006), and more often had hypertension (P < .001). Risk factors for cerebral microbleeds varied depending on the dementia diagnosis. Odds ratios for having cerebral microbleeds increased with the number of risk factors (hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, male sex, and age 65 and older) in the whole patient group and increased differently in the separate dementia diagnoses.

Conclusions: Prevalence, topography, and risk factors of cerebral microbleeds vary depending on the dementia diagnosis and reflect the inherent pathology of different dementia diagnoses. Because cerebral microbleeds are seen as possible predictors of intracerebral hemorrhage, their increasing prevalence with an increasing number of risk factors, as shown in our study, may require taking the number of risk factors into account when deciding on anticoagulant therapy in dementia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / epidemiology*
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / pathology*
  • Dementia / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors