Very small cerebellar infarcts: Integration of recent insights into a functional topographic classification

Laurens J.L. De Cocker, Susanne J. Van Veluw, Mary Fowkes, Peter R. Luijten, Willem P.Th M. Mali, Jeroen Hendrikse

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Very small cerebellar infarcts (diameter <2 cm) are a frequent finding on MRI. With an increasing scientific interest in cerebral microinfarcts, very small infarcts in the cerebellum deserve more of our attention as well. The goal of the present article was to review infarct terminology and mechanisms, as well as to critically appraise the current classification system for very small cerebellar infarcts. Methods: A search strategy was designed to identify all relevant studies on very small cerebellar infarcts in the English language. This search was restricted to papers published up to February 21, 2013. Studies were initially identified from the MEDLINE/PubMed database using the search terms 'small cerebellar infarct', 'lacunar infarct', 'microinfarct', 'end zone infarct', 'border zone infarct', 'watershed infarct', 'territorial infarct', and 'nonterritorial infarct'. Furthermore, a similar search strategy was directed to identify all relevant articles on (descriptive and functional) neuroanatomy and neuroimaging of the cerebellum. Results: Very small cerebellar infarcts have been referred to as lacunar infarcts, as junctional, border zone or watershed infarcts, as nonterritorial infarcts, as very small territorial or end zone infarcts, or simply as (very) small cerebellar infarcts. Since the original clinicoradiological study on these small infarcts, the classification into border zones remains in common use. This classification is based upon the assumption that these infarcts occur secondary to low flow in between arterial perfusion territories, where flow is believed to be the lowest. Later studies, however, have suggested occlusion of small (end-) arteries as a prerequisite for the pathogenesis of even small cerebellar infarcts, with low flow merely as a potential contributor. Therefore, it is likely that infarcts may as well occur in a nonborder zone distribution. Moreover, the classification into border zones may be considered unreliable since the location of border zones is highly variable among individuals and is not known in a particular patient. Recently, a functional topographic organization has been found in the cerebellum with evidence for a motor-nonmotor dichotomy between the anterior and posterior lobe. Since the cerebellar lobes can be easily and reliably distinguished with both CT and MRI, we recommend the classification of very small cerebellar infarcts according to topographic location. Conclusion: There are several fundamental concerns with the current classification of very small cerebellar infarcts according to border zones, which we would like to overcome by recommending a new classification system based on topography. This will allow for a reliable and reproducible way of classifying very small cerebellar infarcts and is expected to improve clinicoradiological correlation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-87
Number of pages7
JournalCerebrovascular Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Border zone infarct
  • Cerebellar infarction
  • End zone infarct
  • Lacunar infarct
  • Larsell classification
  • Microinfarct
  • Neuroimaging
  • Nonterritorial infarct
  • Territorial infarct
  • Watershed infarction


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