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Cerebral microbleeds in the population based AGES-Reykjavik study: prevalence and location
  1. S Sveinbjornsdottir1,2,3,
  2. S Sigurdsson1,
  3. T Aspelund1,
  4. O Kjartansson1,3,
  5. G Eiriksdottir1,
  6. B Valtysdottir1,
  7. O L Lopez4,
  8. M A van Buchem5,
  9. P V Jonsson1,2,3,
  10. V Gudnason1,2,
  11. L J Launer6
  1. 1
    The Icelandic Heart Association, Kopavogur, Iceland
  2. 2
    The University of Iceland, Faculty of Medicine, Reykjavik, Iceland
  3. 3
    Departments of Neurology and Radiology, Landspitali University Hospital, Reykjavik, Iceland
  4. 4
    Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  5. 5
    Department of Radiology, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands
  6. 6
    National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  1. Dr S Sveinbjornsdottir, Department of Neurology, Landspitali University Hospital, C12, Fossvogur, 108 Reykjavik, Iceland; sigurls{at}


Background and purpose: Incidental foci of signal loss suggestive of cerebral microbleeds (CMBs) are frequent findings on gradient echo T2* weighted MRI (T2* MRI) of patients with haemorrhagic or ischaemic stroke. There are few prevalence data on older populations. This paper reports on the prevalence and location of CMBs in a community based cohort of older men and women (born 1907–1935) who participated in the Age Gene/Environment Susceptibility (AGES)-Reykjavik Study, a population based cohort study that followed the Reykjavik Study

Methods: As part of the examination, all eligible and consenting cohort members underwent a full brain MRI, and blood was drawn for genotyping. Results are based on the first 1962 men (n = 820) and women (n = 1142), mean age 76 years, with complete MRI and demographic information available.

Results: Evidence of CMBs was found in 218 participants (11.1% (95% CI 9.8% to 12.6%)); men had significantly more CMBs than women (14.4% vs 8.8%; p = 0.0002, age adjusted). The prevalence of CMBs increased with age (p = 0.0001) in both men (p = 0.006) and women (p = 0.007). CMBs were located in the cerebral lobes (70%), the basal ganglia region (10.5%) and infratentorium (18.6%). Having a CMB was significantly associated with a homozygote Apo E 44 genotype (p = 0.01).

Conclusion: Cerebral microbleeds are common in older persons. The association with homozygote Apo E 4 genotype and finding a relative predominance in the parietal lobes might indicate an association with amyloid angiopathy.

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  • Competing interests: None.

  • Funding: Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health contract N01-AG-1-2100, National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program, Hjartavernd (the Icelandic Heart Association) and the Althingi (the Icelandic Parliament).

  • Ethics approval: The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB, VSN 00-063) of Iceland, the Icelandic Data Protection Committee and the IRB serving the National Institute on Aging.