Histopathological Differences Between the Anterior and Posterior Brain Arteries as a Function of Aging

Stroke. 2017 Mar;48(3):638-644. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.116.015630. Epub 2017 Feb 14.


Background and purpose: We tested the hypothesis that posterior brain arteries differ pathologically from anterior brain arteries and that this difference varies with age.

Methods: Brain large arteries from 194 autopsied individuals (mean age 56±17 years, 63% men, 25% nonwhite, 17% with brain infarcts) were analyzed to obtain the areas of arterial layers and lumen as well as the relative content of elastin, collagen, and amyloid. Visual rating was used to determine the prevalence of atheroma, calcification, vasa vasorum, pattern of intima thickening, and internal elastic lamina gaps. We used multilevel models adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity, vascular risk factors, artery type and location, and multiple comparisons.

Results: Of 1362 large artery segments, 5% had vasa vasorum, 5% had calcifications, 15% had concentric intimal thickening, and 11% had atheromas. Posterior brain arteries had thinner walls, less elastin, and more concentric intima thickening than anterior brain arteries. Compared to anterior brain arteries, the basilar artery had higher arterial area encircled by the internal elastic lamina, whereas the vertebral arteries had higher prevalence of elastin loss, concentric intima thickening, and nonatherosclerotic stenosis. In younger individuals, vertebral artery calcifications were more likely than calcification in anterior brain arteries, but this difference attenuated with age.

Conclusions: Posterior brain arteries differ pathologically from anterior brain arteries in the degree of wall thickening, elastin loss, and concentric intimal thickening.

Keywords: basilar artery; brain; collagen; elastin; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Arteries / pathology*
  • Autopsy
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult