According to new research published in Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association, an advanced MRI brain scan in patients with stroke-related small vessel disease helped predict memory and dementia issues.

Small blood vessel disease occurs after a stroke or other condition damages the blood vessels in the brain. This condition causes issues with thinking and can lead to dementia.

The study evaluated the accuracy of a new MRI analysis technique using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), in predicting thinking problems and dementia related to small vessel disease. A single scan measured the brain to reveal damaged areas. Comparing the photos allowed researchers to identify healthy versus damaged brain tissue. Research concluded that those with the most brain damage were more likely to develop thinking problems. This analysis helped predict 3/4 of dementia cases in the study.

The study included 99 patients with small blood vessel disease caused by ischemic stroke, a type of stroke that blocks the blood vessels deep within the brain.

“We have developed a useful tool for monitoring patients at risk of developing dementia and could target those who need early treatment,” said senior author Rebecca A. Charlton, Ph.D., department of psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, in the United Kingdom.

Participants received the MRI scans annually for three years and thinking tests annually for five years. Eighteen participants developed dementia during the study, with an average time to onset of approximately three years and four months.

This advanced MRI analysis offers a highly accurate and sensitive marker of small vessel disease severity in a single measure that can be used to detect who will and will not go on the develop dementia in a five-year period, noted Charlton.

The healthy brain scans used for comparison were from one individual and may not represent the true range of all healthy brains. In addition, the study’s relatively small number of participants all had small vessel disease resulting from one type of stroke, so the results may not apply to people with different forms of the disease.

Source: Science Daily