The prevalence of white-matter lesions on computed tomography of the brain in demented and nondemented 85-year-olds

J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 1994 Jul-Sep;7(3):169-75. doi: 10.1177/089198879400700308.


The prevalence of white-matter lesions on computed tomography was studied in a representative sample of 85-year-olds living in Gothenburg, Sweden. The study included a psychiatric examination, interview of a close informant, neuropsychological examination, physical examination, comprehensive laboratory tests, electrocardiogram, chest x-ray, computed tomography scan of the head, and cerebrospinal fluid analysis. The diagnoses of dementia and other mental disorders were made according to DSM-III-R criteria. The prevalence of white-matter lesions in demented subjects was 68.9%, and in nondemented, 33.8%. Their prevalence was not increased in any mental disorder other than dementia. All severities of dementia and the subtypes, Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, and other types of dementia, had a significantly higher prevalence of white-matter lesions than did nondemented subjects. The risk for dementia, but not its severity, increased with the severity of these lesions. A stepwise logistic regression analysis showed that both white-matter lesions and infarcts on computed tomography contributed independently to dementia. White-matter changes may be a contributing cause of dementia in the oldest old, or may represent a disease entity of its own. They are important to recognize since they may be potentially preventable, or even treatable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Dementia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Dementia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • United States / epidemiology