Background: Vascular dementia (VaD) is an ill-defined entity. It is not known how acute brain failure related to stroke becomes chronic leading to dementia.
Purpose: The present study investigates whether positron emission tomography (PET) can detect different metabolic patterns in VaD.
Patients and methods: Four groups of stroke patients were selected. The PET findings of 14 stroke patients with multiple large infarcts and dementia (MID) and 14 without dementia (MS) were compared. Sixteen stroke patients with lacunes, leukoaraiosis and dementia (LD) were assessed against nine without dementia (LS). The PET examination utilised the 15-O-steady-state technique in order to determine regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF), regional oxygen extraction rate (rOER) and regional cerebral metabolic rate for oxygen (rCMRO2) in different pre-established cortical, subcortical and cerebellar regions.
Results: Decreased coupled mean rCBF and rCMRO2 with comparable rOER values were observed in all cerebral regions except in the cerebellum of the MID compared to the MS group. In the LD group mean rCBF and rCMRO2 were decreased with increased rOER in all cerebral regions except in the cerebellum compared to the LS group.
Conclusions: The PET findings in demented patients with multiple large infarcts are in agreement with the concept of multi-infarct dementia. In demented patients with lacunes and leukoaraiosis, the PET pattern suggests a state of misery perfusion not only in the deep structures but also in the whole cerebral cortex. The present PET study argues that there are at least two possible mechanisms that can explain the occurrence of VaD in stroke patients.