Findings of Vascular Brain Injury and Structural Loss from Cranial Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Elderly American Indians: The Strong Heart Study

Neuroepidemiology. 2017;48(1-2):39-47. doi: 10.1159/000459624. Epub 2017 Mar 4.


Background: The Cerebrovascular Disease and its Consequences in American Indians study conducted cranial MRI examination of surviving participants of the Strong Heart Study, a longitudinal cohort of elderly American Indians.

Methods: Of the 1,033 recruited participants, some were unable to complete the MRI (n = 22), some scans were unusable due to participant motion or technical errors (n = 13), and one community withdrew consent after data collection (n = 209), leaving 789 interpretable MRI scan images. Six image sequences were obtained in contiguous slices on 1.5T scanners. Neuroradiologists graded white matter hyperintensities (WMH), sulci, and ventricles on a 0- to 9-point scale, and recorded the presence of infarcts and hemorrhages. Intracranial, brain, hippocampal, and WMH volumes were estimated by automated image processing.

Results: The median scores for graded measures were 2 (WMH) and 3 (sulci, ventricles). About one-third of participants had lacunar (20%) or other infarcts (13%); few had hemorrhages (5.7%). Findings of cortical atrophy were also prevalent. Statistical analyses indicated significant associations between older age and findings of vascular injury and atrophy; male gender was associated with findings of cortical atrophy.

Conclusions: Vascular brain injury is the likely explanation in this elderly American Indian population for brain infarcts, hemorrhages, WMH grade, and WMH volume. Although vascular brain injury may play a role in other findings, independent degenerative other disease processes may underlie abnormal sulcal widening, ventricular enlargement, hippocampal volume, and total brain volume. Further examination of risk factors and outcomes with these findings may expand the understanding of neurological conditions in this understudied population.

Keywords: American Indians; Central atrophy; Cerebral atrophy; Hemorrhage; Infarct; MRI; White matter disease.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / ethnology*
  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / pathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / ethnology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / pathology