Neuroimaging in cerebral small vessel disease: Update and new concepts

ABSTRACT. In recent years, small vessel disease (SVD) has been recognized for its major impact on cognitive impairment in elderly people, where it is often difficult to separate its effects from those of neurodegenerative diseases individually. SVD is a systemic disease, probably related to diffuse endothelial dysfunction, which affects the perforating arterioles, capillaries and venules in the brain. Although often asymptomatic, it is responsible for almost half of all dementia cases and a significant proportion of stroke cases. Imaging features found on magnetic resonance include recent small subcortical infarctions, lacunes of presumed vascular origin, white matter hyperintensity of presumed vascular origin, prominent perivascular spaces and cerebral microbleeds. The recognition of these imaging findings as a spectrum of the same disease caused by endothelial dysfunction of small cerebral vessels can allow an overall analysis of the disease and thus the development of more effective preventive and therapeutic strategies.