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AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2005 Jun-Jul;26(6):1512-20.

Dilatation of the Virchow-Robin space is a sensitive indicator of cerebral microvascular disease: study in elderly patients with dementia.

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Institutions Imaging Science and Biomedical Engineering, School of Medicine, University of Manchester, UK.



Virchow-Robin spaces (VRSs) are CSF spaces that accompany blood vessels as they perforate the brain substance. Dilatation of VRS is associated with microangiopathy. Microvascular disease has a major etiologic and pathogenetic role in dementias. To our knowledge, no investigators have looked at the relationship between dilated VRS on MR imaging and cerebral microvascular disease. The aim of our study was to test the hypothesis that dilatation of VRS is associated with subcortical vascular dementia.


We recruited 75 patients with Alzheimer's disease (n = 35), ischemic vascular dementia (n = 24), or frontotemporal dementia (n = 16) and 35 healthy volunteers. We assessed deep white matter and periventricular hyperintensities and the severity of VRS dilatation, as scored on MR images. Statistical group comparisons and multiple regression analyses were performed to quantify the relationship between imaging features and diagnoses.


White matter lesions were more common in patients with ischemic vascular dementia than in those with Alzheimer's disease or healthy volunteers (P < .01). VRS scores were significantly higher in patients with vascular dementia than in patients with AD (P < .001), patients with FTD (P < .01), or healthy volunteers (P < .001). VRS scores accounted for 29% of the variance in the regression model, and scores for periventricular hyperintensity accounted for 2%.


VRS dilatation is common in diseases associated with microvascular abnormality and can be used as a diagnostic tool to differentiate vascular dementias from degenerative dementias.

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