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Stroke. 1986 Nov-Dec;17(6):1084-9.

Incidental subcortical lesions identified on magnetic resonance imaging in the elderly. I. Correlation with age and cerebrovascular risk factors.


Patchy subcortical foci of increased signal intensity are frequently identified on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the elderly. The incidence and clinical correlates of these lesions remain unknown. In this report, 240 consecutive MRI scans performed over a 6-month period were reviewed (excluding patients with recent brain trauma or known demyelinating disease). Subcortical incidental lesions (ILs) were identified, which could not be accounted for by the patient's current clinical diagnosis, neurological status, or CT scan. The ILs were graded according to size, multiplicity, and location. The incidence and severity of ILs increased with advancing age (p less than 0.0005). Among patients over 50 years of age, the incidence and severity of ILs were correlated with a previous history of history of ischemic cerebrovascular disease (p less than 0.05) and with hypertension (p less than 0.05). Multivariable regression analysis identified age, prior brain ischemia, and hypertension as the major predictors of ILs in the elderly. Diabetes, coronary artery diseases, and sex did not play a significant role. With the exception of cerebrovascular disease, there was no association between ILs and any particular clinical entity, including dementia. It is concluded that subcortical parenchymal lesions are frequent incidental findings on MRI in the elderly, and may represent an index of chronic cerebrovascular diseases in such patients.

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