Send to

Choose Destination
Stroke. 1997 Mar;28(3):652-9.

Pathogenesis of leukoaraiosis: a review.

Author information

Department of Pathology (Neuropathology), Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Mich 48202, USA.



Changes in the cerebral hemispheric white matter, detectable with increasing frequency by modern neuroimaging methods, are associated with aging and conceivably may contribute to the development of specific cognitive deficits. The pathogenesis of these cerebral white matter abnormalities (sometimes described as leukoaraiosis) is unknown. This review evaluates the available evidence in support of the hypothesis that the etiology of leukoaraiosis is related to a specific type of cerebral ischemia and highlights mechanisms by which ischemic injury to the brain may induce selected structural alterations limited to the cerebral white matter.


The review is based on the critical analysis of over 100 publications (most appearing in the last decade) dealing with the anatomy and physiology of the arterial circulation to the cerebral white matter and with the pathogenesis of leukoaraiosis.


A significant number of clues support the hypothesis that some types of leukoaraiosis may be the result of ischemic injury to the brain. Structural changes affecting the small intraparenchymal cerebral arteries and arterioles that are associated with aging and with stroke risk factors, altered cerebral blood flow autoregulation, and the conditions created by the unique arterial blood supply of the hemispheric white matter each seem to contribute to the development of leukoaraiosis. To the best of our ability to interpret current information, the type of ischemic injury that is most likely responsible for these white matter changes involves transient repeated events characterized by moderate drops in regional cerebral blood flow that induce an incomplete form of infarction. This hypothesis could be tested in appropriate experimental models.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Archivio Istituzionale della Ricerca Unimi
Loading ...
Support Center