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Cerebral pulsatility in relation with various imaging markers of cerebral small vessel disease: a longitudinal community-based study.

BACKGROUND: Cerebral pulsatility is thought to reflect arterial stiffness and downstream microvascular resistance. Although previous studies indicated cerebral pulsatility might closely relate to development of cerebral small vessel disease (SVD), yet evidence remain controversial and longitudinal data are rare.

OBJECTIVE: We aimed to explore relationships of cerebral pulsatility with severity and progression of various SVD imaging markers among the community-dwelling elderly.

DESIGN: A longitudinal cohort study.

METHODS: As part of the prospective community-based Shanghai Aging Study cohort, dementia- and stroke-free elderly were recruited for baseline assessment of cerebral pulsatility and SVD severity during 2010-2011 and traced for SVD progression during 2016-2017. Cerebral pulsatility was quantified for both anterior and posterior circulation with transcranial Doppler ultrasound. SVD imaging markers were measured with brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) including white matter hyperintensities (WMHs), enlarged perivascular spaces (ePVS), lacunes, and microbleeds. The cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between cerebral pulsatility and SVD were analyzed by univariable and multivariable regression models.

RESULTS: Totally, 188 eligible subjects were included at baseline and out of them, 100 (53.19%) returned for a 7-year follow-up. At baseline, increased pulsatility of posterior circulation was independently associated with more periventricular WMH (PWMH) and ePVS in basal ganglia (BG-ePVS) but not with other SVD markers. Longitudinally, higher posterior pulsatility predicted greater PWMH progression in participants with hypertension (β = 2.694, standard error [SE] = 1.112, p  = 0.020), whereas pulsatility of anterior circulation was shown to prevent BG-ePVS progression among followed-up elderly (β = -6.737, SE = 2.685, p  = 0.012). However, no significant relationship was found between cerebral pulsatility and burden of lacunes or cerebral microbleeds.

CONCLUSION: Higher pulsatility of posterior circulation could worsen PWMH progression, especially for participants with hypertension. But for development of ePVS, increased cerebral pulsatility could play a compensatory role among several healthy elderly. The distinct relationships between cerebral pulsatility and various SVD markers emphasized the importance of individualized SVD management.

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