Rationale and design of a longitudinal study of cerebral small vessel diseases, clinical and imaging outcomes in patients presenting with mild ischaemic stroke: Mild Stroke Study 3

Eur Stroke J. 2021 Mar;6(1):81-88. doi: 10.1177/2396987320929617. Epub 2020 Jun 5.


Background: Cerebral small vessel disease is a major cause of dementia and stroke, visible on brain magnetic resonance imaging. Recent data suggest that small vessel disease lesions may be dynamic, damage extends into normal-appearing brain and microvascular dysfunctions include abnormal blood-brain barrier leakage, vasoreactivity and pulsatility, but much remains unknown regarding underlying pathophysiology, symptoms, clinical features and risk factors of small vessel disease.Patients and Methods: The Mild Stroke Study 3 is a prospective observational cohort study to identify risk factors for and clinical implications of small vessel disease progression and regression among up to 300 adults with non-disabling stroke. We perform detailed serial clinical, cognitive, lifestyle, physiological, retinal and brain magnetic resonance imaging assessments over one year; we assess cerebrovascular reactivity, blood flow, pulsatility and blood-brain barrier leakage on magnetic resonance imaging at baseline; we follow up to four years by post and phone. The study is registered ISRCTN 12113543.

Summary: Factors which influence direction and rate of change of small vessel disease lesions are poorly understood. We investigate the role of small vessel dysfunction using advanced serial neuroimaging in a deeply phenotyped cohort to increase understanding of the natural history of small vessel disease, identify those at highest risk of early disease progression or regression and uncover novel targets for small vessel disease prevention and therapy.

Keywords: Cerebral small vessel diseases; blood–brain barrier; cerebrovascular circulation; cognitive dysfunction; dementia; lacunar stroke; longitudinal studies; magnetic resonance imaging; symptom assessment; white matter hyperintensities.