Background: Stroke is a major cause of cognitive impairment and dementia. However, the underlying mechanisms beyond post-stroke cognitive impairment (PSCI) are not fully explained to date.
Objective: We studied the contribution of vascular pathology measures to PSCI, separate from and in conjunction with pathologic markers associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD).
Methods: Data from 397 cognitively intact ischemic stroke patients were available. All patients underwent 3T MRI and evaluated for white matter hyperintensity volume (WMHV) and integrity, ischemic lesions, small vessel disease (SVD) markers and grey matter (GM), hippocampal and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) volumes. Comprehensive cognitive tests were performed on admission and after two years. We used multiple regression to evaluate the contributions of vascular pathology measures (Framingham risk score, WMHV, and existence of SVD) and AD-associated markers (apolipoprotein E4 status and hippocampal volume).
Results: During two years follow-up, 80 participants (20.2%) developed PSCI. Low GM and cortex volume and high WMHV and CSF volume, but not the new lesion volume, predicted the development of PSCI in a dose-dependent relationship (p = 0.001). Vascular related imaging markers and risk factors predicted PSCI better than AD related markers (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Brain structural measures, including total GM volume, WMHV, and CSF volume were independently associated with PSCI and may serve as early biomarkers for risk prediction. In our sample, vascular pathology measures contributed significantly better to PSCI prediction than markers associated with AD. The newly detected ischemic lesion has not emerged as biomarker for PSCI risk, thus maybe a part of the ongoing vascular pathology.
Keywords: Cognitive impairment; neuroimaging; predictors; stroke.