Background: It is generally assumed that with increasing age, pathology in clinically diagnosed Alzheimer's disease (AD) becomes more mixed, i.e., co-existence of amyloid plaques and cerebrovascular pathology.
Objective: To test the hypothesis of increasing prevalence of mixed dementia in late-onset clinically diagnosed Alzheimer's disease (AD) in a single-center memory clinic population.
Methods: Patients included had diagnoses of AD (n = 832), subjective cognitive impairment (SCI, n = 333), mild cognitive impairment (MCI, n = 492), vascular dementia (VaD, n = 57), other dementia (n = 53), or other diagnosis (n = 233). Prevalence of severe white matter lesions (WML) was defined as a score of 2 or higher on the Fazekas-scale on brain computed tomography to classify AD patients as having mixed dementia. We examined the effect of age on WML using multiple linear regression analysis, and AD patients were compared to SCI to determine the effect of disease on WML.
Results: Prevalence of severe WML was 33.6% in AD patients (mixed dementia), 11.4% in SCI, 22.7% in MCI, 75.4% in VaD, 3.8% in other dementia, and 15.5% in other diagnosis. With increasing age there was a significant and similar increase of WML scores in SCI, MCI, AD, other dementia, and other diagnosis, indicating no effect modification by AD. The difference between AD patients and SCI averaged 0.16 on the WML score and difference in percentage severe WML between AD and SCI patients was 15% across all ages.
Conclusion: We found a low prevalence of mixed dementia. Furthermore, severe WML in AD was largely explained by age rather than effect of disease.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Fazekas score; computed tomography; memory clinic; white matter lesions.