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Progression of cerebral white matter lesions in Alzheimer’s disease: a new window for therapy?
  1. F-E de Leeuw3,
  2. F Barkhof2,
  3. P Scheltens1
  1. 1Alzheimer Centre and Department of Neurology, VU Medical Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Radiology VU Medical Centre
  3. 3Department of Neurology, University Medical Centre St Radboud, Nijmegen, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr F-E de Leeuw
 Department of Neurology (HP326), University Medical Centre St Radboud, PO Box 9101, 6500HB Nijmegen, Netherlands;


Background: White matter lesions (WML) are a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Progression of WML is associated with vascular factors and cognitive decline in population based studies but the course of WML is unknown in Alzheimer’s disease.

Objective: To investigate the prevalence and risk factors for progression of WML in Alzheimer’s disease.

Subjects: 38 patients with Alzheimer’s disease for whom blood pressure measurements and sequential brain MRIs were available.

Methods: The proportion of patients with progression of WML was calculated, stratified on baseline absence or presence of WML by analysis of variance. Odds ratios (OR) were calculated by age and sex adjusted logistic regression to quantify the relation between blood pressure and progression of WML.

Results: About 25% of the patients showed progression of WML. Patients with WML at baseline had significantly more progression than those without WML at baseline (adjusted mean difference = 1.2; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.6 to 1.8). Diastolic blood pressure (DBP) was particularly related to progression of WML (OR = 5.9 (95% CI, 1.0 to 37.6) per 10 mm Hg DBP, p = 0.05).

Conclusions: Alzheimer’s disease patients with WML at baseline are at risk for rapid progression of WML. WML may offer a potential treatment target in this disease to ameliorate the rate of cognitive decline.

  • ARWMC, age related white matter changes rating scale
  • MMSE, mini-mental state examination
  • NINCDS-ADRDA, National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders–Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association
  • WML, white matter lesion
  • white matter lesions
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • blood pressure
  • epidemiology

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  • See Editorial Commentary, p 1185

  • Competing interests: none declared

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