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Associations between white matter hyperintensity burden, cerebral blood flow and transit time in small vessel disease: an updated meta-analysis

By Catriona R Stewart, Michael S Stringer, Yulu Shi, Michael J Thrippleton, Joanna M Wardlaw

Posted 07 Oct 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.06.20207373

Cerebral small vessel disease is a major contributor to stroke and dementia, characterised by white matter hyperintensities (WMH) on neuroimaging. WMH are associated with reduced cerebral blood flow (CBF) cross-sectionally, though longitudinal associations remain unclear. We updated a 2016 meta-analysis, identifying 30 studies, 27 cross-sectional (n=2956) and 3 longitudinal (n=440), published since 2016. Cross-sectionally, we meta-analysed 10 new studies with 24 previously reported studies, total 34 (n=2180), finding lower CBF to be associated with worse WMH burden (mean global CBF: standardised mean difference: -0.45, 95% confidence interval (CI): -0.64,-0.27). Longitudinally, the association of baseline CBF with WMH progression varied: the largest study (5 years, n=252) found no associations, while another small study (4.5 years, n=52) found that low CBF in the periventricular WMH penumbra predicted WMH progression. We could not meta-analyse longitudinal studies due to different statistical and methodological approaches. We found lower CBF within WMH compared to normal appearing white matter (novel meta-analysis; 5 cross-sectional studies; n=295; SMD: -1.51, 95% CI: -1.94,-1.07). These findings highlight that relationships between resting CBF and WMH are complex and that more longitudinal studies analysing regional CBF and subsequent WMH change are required to determine the role of CBF in small vessel disease progression.

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