Incidental subcortical lesions identified on magnetic resonance imaging in the elderly. II. Postmortem pathological correlations.
The pathological correlates of subcortical lesions noted on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the elderly are not known. Postmortem in vitro proton MRI was performed on the brains of seven consecutive elderly patients dying of nonneurologic causes. Scans were done in the fresh and fixed states with the specimen immersed in saline and formaldehyde respectively. A 1.5 Tesla superconductive system was used with a multiple spin-echo protocol generating T2 weighted images. Subcortical MRI lesions were localized in three dimensions and identified at brain cutting. In addition, pathological correlations were obtained from an eighth patient who underwent MRI eleven days before death. Histological examinations were performed in a blinded fashion, including control areas from the same brains. Subcortical MRI lesions were found to be associated with arteriosclerosis, dilated perivascular spaces, and vascular ectasia (p less than 0.05). These histological changes were characteristic of "état criblé" which, like subcortical MRI lesions, is associated with age and hypertension. Shrinkage (or atrophy) of the brain parenchyma around ectatic blood vessels would result in an extensive network of tunnels filled with extracellular water. The proton MRI signal from such areas of the brain would be increased. Gliosis and small areas of infarction occasionally coexisted with "état criblé," but these were not present in all areas with MRI lesions and could not be distinguished by MRI signal alone. In conclusion, clinical and pathological correlations lend support to the uniform hypothesis that MRI provides a nonspecific index of brain parenchymal alterations caused by aging and chronic cerebrovascular disease.
- Copyright © 1986 by American Heart Association