Cerebrovascular disease typically manifests with stroke, cognitive impairment, or both. Vascular cognitive impairment refers to all forms of cognitive disorder associated with cerebrovascular disease, regardless of the specific mechanisms involved. It encompasses the full range of cognitive deficits from mild cognitive impairment to dementia. In principle, any of the multiple causes of clinical stroke can cause vascular cognitive impairment. Recent work further highlights a role of microinfarcts, microhemorrhages, strategic white matter tracts, loss of microstructural tissue integrity, and secondary neurodegeneration. Vascular brain injury results in loss of structural and functional connectivity and, hence, compromise of functional networks within the brain. Vascular cognitive impairment is common both after stroke and in stroke-free individuals presenting to dementia clinics, and vascular pathology frequently coexists with neurodegenerative pathology, resulting in mixed forms of mild cognitive impairment or dementia. Vascular dementia is now recognized as the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's disease, and there is increasing awareness that targeting vascular risk may help to prevent dementia, even of the Alzheimer type. Recent advances in neuroimaging, neuropathology, epidemiology, and genetics have led to a deeper understanding of how vascular disease affects cognition. These new findings provide an opportunity for the present reappraisal of vascular cognitive impairment. We further briefly address current therapeutic concepts.
Keywords: cognitive impairment; intracranial hemorrhage; ischemic stroke; magnetic resonance imaging; vascular disease.
© 2017 American Heart Association, Inc.