White matter atrophy in cerebral amyloid angiopathy

Neurology. 2020 Aug 4;95(5):e554-e562. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000010017. Epub 2020 Jul 1.


Objective: We postulated that cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) is associated with white matter atrophy (WMA) and that WMA can be related to cognitive changes in CAA.

Methods: White matter volume expressed as percent of intracranial volume (pWMV) of prospectively enrolled patients without dementia diagnosed with probable CAA was compared to age-matched healthy controls (HC) and patients with Alzheimer disease (AD). Cognitive scores were also sought to understand the potential effects of WMA on cognitive function.

Results: Patients with CAA (n = 72) had significantly lower pWMV (27.97% ± 2.63) when compared to age-matched HC (n = 72; mean difference [MD], 2.38%; p < 0.0001) and patients with AD (n = 72; MD, 1.57%; p < 0.0001). Differences were most pronounced in the posterior occipital regions in both comparisons. When comparisons were restricted to groups of patients with CAA but no intracerebral hemorrhage (n = 32) or hypertension (n = 32), and age-matched HC and AD, the significant differences were unaltered. Within the CAA cohort, higher age, lobar microbleed counts, and presence of hypertension were associated with lower pWMV (p = 0.0007, p = 0.031, and p = 0.003, respectively). All associations remained independent in multivariable analyses. Within the CAA cohort, higher pWMV independently correlated with better scores of executive function.

Conclusions: Patients with CAA show WMA when compared to age-matched HC and patients with AD. WMA independently correlates with the number of lobar microbleeds, a marker of CAA severity. Consistent spatial patterns of WMA especially in posterior regions might be related to CAA. The association between WMA and measures of executive function suggests that WMA might represent an important mediator of CAA-related neurologic dysfunction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • White Matter / pathology*