Clinical Relevance of Cortical Cerebral Microinfarcts on 1.5T Magnetic Resonance Imaging in the Late-Adult Population

Saima Hilal*, Arwin Doolabi, Henri Vrooman, M. Kamran Ikram, M. Arfan Ikram, Meike W. Vernooij

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Background and Purpose: Cortical cerebral microinfarcts (CMIs) have been linked with dementia and impaired cognition in cross-sectional studies. However, the clinical relevance of CMIs in a large population-based setting is lacking. We examine the association of cortical CMIs detected on 1.5T magnetic resonance imaging with cardiovascular risk factors, cerebrovascular disease, and brain tissue volumes. We further explore the association between cortical CMIs with cognitive decline and risk of stroke, dementia, and mortality in the general population. Methods: Two thousand one hundred fifty-six participants (age: 75.7±5.9 years, women: 55.6%) with clinical history and baseline magnetic resonance imaging (January 2009-December 2013) were included from the Rotterdam Study. Cortical CMIs were graded based on a previously validated method. Markers of cerebrovascular disease and brain tissue volumes were assessed on magnetic resonance imaging. Cognition was assessed using a detailed neuropsychological test at baseline and at 5 years of follow-up. Data on incident stroke, dementia, and mortality were included until January 2016. Results: Two hundred twenty-seven individuals (10.5%) had ≥1 cortical CMIs. The major risk factors of cortical CMIs were male sex, current smoking, history of heart disease, and stroke. Furthermore, presence of cortical CMIs was associated with infarcts and smaller brain volume. Persons with cortical CMIs showed cognitive decline in Stroop tests (color-naming and interference subtasks; β for color-naming, 0.18 [95% CI, 0.04-0.33], P interaction ≤0.001 and β for interference subtask, 1.74, [95% CI, 0.66-2.82], P interaction ≤0.001). During a mean follow-up of 5.2 years, 73 (4.3%) individuals developed incident stroke, 95 (5.1%) incident dementia, and 399 (19.2%) died. People with cortical CMIs were at an increased risk of stroke (hazard ratio, 1.18 [95% CI, 1.09-1.28]) and mortality (hazard ratio, 1.09 [95% CI, 1.00-1.19]). Conclusions: Cortical CMIs are highly prevalent in a population-based setting and are associated with cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and increased risk of stroke and mortality. Future investigations will have to show whether cortical CMIs are a useful biomarker to intervene upon to reduce the burden of stroke.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)922-930
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

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