Cerebral small vessel disease: A review

Adv Clin Exp Med. 2021 Mar;30(3):349-356. doi: 10.17219/acem/131216.


Cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD) is the most common, chronic and progressive vascular disease. The changes affect arterioles, capillaries and small veins supplying the white matter and deep structures of the brain. It is the most common incidental finding on brain scans, especially in people over 80 years of age. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) plays a key role in the diagnosis of CSVD. The nomenclature and radiological phenotypes of CSVD were published in 2013 based on the unified position of the so-called Centres of Excellence in Neurodegeneration. The disease is characterized by a diverse clinical and radiological picture. It is primarily responsible for stroke incidents, gait disturbances, depression, cognitive impairment, and dementia in the elderly. The CSVD contributes to about 20% of strokes, including 25% of ischemic strokes and 45% of dementias. Common causes of CSVD include arteriosclerosis, cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA), genetic small vessel angiopathy, inflammation and immune-mediated small vessel diseases, and venous collagenosis. There is no causal treatment and management is mainly based on combating known risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Keywords: amyloidosis; cerebral small vessel disease; lacunar infarcts; microbleeds; white matter hyperintensities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain
  • Cerebral Small Vessel Diseases* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Stroke*
  • White Matter*