The etiology and evolution of magnetic resonance imaging-visible perivascular spaces: Systematic review and meta-analysis

Serhat V. Okar, Fengling Hu, Russell T. Shinohara, Erin S. Beck, Daniel S. Reich, Benjamin V. Ineichen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: Perivascular spaces have been involved in neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases. Upon a certain size, these spaces can become visible on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), referred to as enlarged perivascular spaces (EPVS) or MRI-visible perivascular spaces (MVPVS). However, the lack of systematic evidence on etiology and temporal dynamics of MVPVS hampers their diagnostic utility as MRI biomarker. Thus, the goal of this systematic review was to summarize potential etiologies and evolution of MVPVS. Methods: In a comprehensive literature search, out of 1,488 unique publications, 140 records assessing etiopathogenesis and dynamics of MVPVS were eligible for a qualitative summary. 6 records were included in a meta-analysis to assess the association between MVPVS and brain atrophy. Results: Four overarching and partly overlapping etiologies of MVPVS have been proposed: (1) Impairment of interstitial fluid circulation, (2) Spiral elongation of arteries, (3) Brain atrophy and/or perivascular myelin loss, and (4) Immune cell accumulation in the perivascular space. The meta-analysis in patients with neuroinflammatory diseases did not support an association between MVPVS and brain volume measures [R: −0.15 (95%-CI −0.40–0.11)]. Based on few and mostly small studies in tumefactive MVPVS and in vascular and neuroinflammatory diseases, temporal evolution of MVPVS is slow. Conclusion: Collectively, this study provides high-grade evidence for MVPVS etiopathogenesis and temporal dynamics. Although several potential etiologies for MVPVS emergence have been proposed, they are only partially supported by data. Advanced MRI methods should be employed to further dissect etiopathogenesis and evolution of MVPVS. This can benefit their implementation as an imaging biomarker. Systematic review registration:, identifier CRD42022346564.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1038011
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - 2023


  • Virchow-Robin spaces
  • biomarker
  • enlarged perivascular spaces
  • etiology
  • etiopathogenesis
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • meta-analysis
  • systematic review


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