Cerebral perivascular spaces visible on magnetic resonance imaging: development of a qualitative rating scale and its observer reliability

Cerebrovasc Dis. 2015;39(3-4):224-31. doi: 10.1159/000375153. Epub 2015 Mar 19.


Background: Perivascular spaces (PVS) are an important component of cerebral small vessel disease (SVD), several inflammatory disorders, hypertension and blood-brain barrier breakdown, but are difficult to quantify. A recent international collaboration of SVD experts has highlighted the need for a robust, easy-to-use PVS rating scale for the effective investigation of the diagnostic and prognostic significance of PVS. The purpose of the current study was to develop and extend existing PVS scales to provide a more comprehensive scale for the measurement of PVS in the basal ganglia, centrum semiovale and midbrain, and to test its intra- and inter-rater agreement, assessing reasons for discrepancy.

Methods: We reviewed previously published PVS scales, including site of PVS assessed, rating method, and size and morphological criteria. Retaining key features, we devised a more comprehensive scale in order to improve the reliability of PVS rating. Two neuroradiologists tested the new scale in MRI brain scans of 60 patients from two studies (stroke, ageing population), chosen to represent a full range of PVS, and demonstrating concomitant features of SVD such as lacunes and white matter hyperintensities. We rated basal ganglia, centrum semiovale, and midbrain PVS. Basal ganglia and centrum semiovale PVS were rated 0 (none), 1 (1-10), 2 (11-20), 3 (21-40) and 4 (>40), and midbrain PVS were rated 0 (none visible) or 1 (visible). We calculated kappa statistics for rating, assessed consistency in use of PVS categories (Bhapkar test) and reviewed sources of discrepancy.

Results: Intra- and inter-rater kappa statistics were highest for basal ganglia PVS (range 0.76-0.87 and 0.8-0.9, respectively) than for centrum semiovale PVS (range 0.68-0.75 and 0.61-0.8, respectively) or midbrain PVS (inter-rater range 0.51-0.52). Inter-rater consistency was better for basal ganglia compared to centrum semiovale PVS (Bhapkar statistic 2.49-3.72, compared to 6.79-21.08, respectively). Most inter-rater disagreements were due to very faint PVS, coexisting extensive white matter hyperintensities (WMH) or the presence of lacunes.

Conclusions: We developed a more inclusive and robust visual PVS rating scale allowing rating of all grades of PVS severity on structural brain imaging. The revised PVS rating scale has good observer reliability for basal ganglia and centrum semiovale PVS, best for basal ganglia PVS, and moderate reliability for midbrain PVS. Agreement is influenced by PVS severity and the presence of background features of SVD. The current scale can be used in further studies to assess the clinical implications of PVS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / pathology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cerebral Small Vessel Diseases / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results