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J Neurol Sci. 2007 Jun 15;257(1-2):62-6. Epub 2007 Feb 23.

Vascular dementia in leukoaraiosis may be a consequence of capillary loss not only in the lesions, but in normal-appearing white matter and cortex as well.

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Department of Radiology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA.


We investigated capillary density in 12 subjects with leukoaraiosis (LA), in 9 age-matched normal subjects, in 7 cases of Alzheimer's disease (AD), and 4 after whole-brain irradiation for brain tumors. In the LA study (which as been published), autopsy brains were evaluated by MRI. The presence of LA was indicated by confluent or patchy areas of hyperintensity in the deep white matter. We employed a stereology method using computerized image processing and analysis to determine microvascular density. Afferent vessels (arterioles and capillaries, but not veins or venules) were stained for alkaline phosphatase in 100 microm thick celloidin sections. Microvascular density in LA lesions in the deep white matter (2.56%) was significantly lower than in the corresponding deep white matter of normal subjects (3.20%, p=0.0180). LA subjects demonstrated decreased vascular density at early ages (55-65 years) when compared to normal subjects. Our findings indicate that LA affects the brain globally, with capillary loss, although the parenchymal damage is found primarily in the deep white matter. In ongoing studies of the deep white matter in AD brains, we found a pattern of decreased vascular density compared to normal, as well as an age-related decline. In the four irradiated brains, we found very low vessel densities, similar to those found in LA, without an additional age-related decline.

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