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Free water determines diffusion alterations and clinical status in cerebral small vessel disease.

Alzheimers Dement. 2018 Feb 1. pii: S1552-5260(18)30001-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2017.12.007. [Epub ahead of print]

Authors/Editors: Duering M, Finsterwalder S, Baykara E, Tuladhar AM, Gesierich B, Konieczny MJ, Malik R, Franzmeier N, Ewers M, Jouvent E, Biessels GJ, Schmidt R, de Leeuw FE, Pasternak O, Dichgans M.
Publication Date: 2018

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Diffusion tensor imaging detects early tissue alterations in Alzheimer's disease and cerebral small vessel disease (SVD). However, the origin of diffusion alterations in SVD is largely unknown.

METHODS: To gain further insight, we applied free water (FW) imaging to patients with genetically defined SVD (Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Subcortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy, n = 57), sporadic SVD (n = 444), and healthy controls (n = 28). We modeled freely diffusing water in the extracellular space (FW) and measures reflecting fiber structure (tissue compartment). We tested associations between these measures and clinical status (processing speed and disability).

RESULTS: Diffusion alterations in SVD were mostly driven by increased FW and less by tissue compartment alterations. Among imaging markers, FW showed the strongest association with clinical status (R2 up to 34%, P < .0001). Findings were consistent across patients with Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Subcortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy and sporadic SVD.

CONCLUSIONS: Diffusion alterations and clinical status in SVD are largely determined by extracellular fluid increase rather than alterations of white matter fiber organization.

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