Estimating Total Cerebral Microinfarct Burden From Diffusion-Weighted Imaging

Eitan Auriel, M. Brandon Westover, Matt T. Bianchi, Yael Reijmer, Sergi Martinez-Ramirez, Jun Ni, Ellis Van Etten, Matthew P. Frosch, Panagiotis Fotiadis, Kris Schwab, Anastasia Vashkevich, Grégoire Boulouis, Alayna P. Younger, Keith A. Johnson, Reisa A. Sperling, Trey Hedden, M. Edip Gurol, Anand Viswanathan, Steven M. Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Cerebral microinfarcts (CMI) are important contributors to vascular cognitive impairment. Magnetic resonance imaging diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) hyperintensities have been suggested to represent acute CMI. We aim to describe a mathematical method for estimating total number of CMI based on the presence of incidental DWI lesions.

METHODS: We reviewed magnetic resonance imaging scans of subjects with cognitive decline, cognitively normal subjects and previously reported subjects with past intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH). Based on temporal and spatial characteristics of DWI lesions, we estimated the annual rate of CMI needed to explain the observed rate of DWI lesion detection in each group. To confirm our estimates, we performed extensive sampling for CMI in the brain of a deceased subject with past lobar ICH who found to have a DWI lesion during life.

RESULTS: Clinically silent DWI lesions were present in 13 of 343 (3.8%) cognitively impaired and 10 of 199 (5%) cognitively intact normal non-ICH patients, both lower than the incidence in the past ICH patients (23 of 178; 12.9%; P<0.0006). The predicted annual incidence of CMI ranges from 16 to 1566 for non-ICH and 50 to 5041 for ICH individuals. Histological sampling revealed a total of 60 lesions in 32 sections. Based on previously reported methods, this density of CMI yields an estimated total brain burden maximum likelihood estimate of 9321 CMIs (95% confidence interval, 7255-11 990).

CONCLUSIONS: Detecting even a single DWI lesion suggests an annual incidence of hundreds of new CMI. The cumulative effects of these lesions may directly contribute to small-vessel-related vascular cognitive impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2129-2135
Number of pages7
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • brain
  • cerebral hemorrhage
  • cerebral infarction
  • diffusion magnetic resonance imaging
  • mild cognitive impairment


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