Using DTI to assess white matter microstructure in cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) in multicentre studies

Clin Sci (Lond). 2017 Jun 7;131(12):1361-1373. doi: 10.1042/CS20170146. Print 2017 Jun 1.


Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) metrics such as fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) have been proposed as clinical trial markers of cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) due to their associations with outcomes such as cognition. However, studies investigating this have been predominantly single-centre. As clinical trials are likely to be multisite, further studies are required to determine whether associations with cognition of similar strengths can be detected in a multicentre setting. One hundred and nine patients (mean age =68 years) with symptomatic lacunar infarction and confluent white matter hyperintensities (WMH) on MRI was recruited across six sites as part of the PRESERVE DTI substudy. After handling missing data, 3T-MRI scanning was available from five sites on five scanner models (Siemens and Philips), alongside neuropsychological and quality of life (QoL) assessments. FA median and MD peak height were extracted from DTI histogram analysis. Multiple linear regressions were performed, including normalized brain volume, WMH lesion load, and n° lacunes as covariates, to investigate the association of FA and MD with cognition and QoL. DTI metrics from all white matter were significantly associated with global cognition (standardized β =0.268), mental flexibility (β =0.306), verbal fluency (β =0.376), and Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) (β =0.273). The magnitudes of these associations were comparable with those previously reported from single-centre studies found in a systematic literature review. In this multicentre study, we confirmed associations between DTI parameters and cognition, which were similar in strength to those found in previous single-centre studies. The present study supports the use of DTI metrics as biomarkers of disease progression in multicentre studies.

Keywords: biomarkers; cerebral small vessel disease; clinical trials; cognition; diffusion tensor imaging.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cerebral Small Vessel Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebral Small Vessel Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Small Vessel Diseases / psychology
  • Cognition
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging*
  • Disease Progression
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukoencephalopathies / diagnostic imaging*
  • Leukoencephalopathies / physiopathology
  • Leukoencephalopathies / psychology
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Microvessels / diagnostic imaging*
  • Microvessels / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Quality of Life
  • Stroke, Lacunar / diagnostic imaging
  • Stroke, Lacunar / physiopathology
  • Stroke, Lacunar / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires