Atherosclerotic risk is associated with cerebral perfusion – A cross-sectional study using arterial spin labeling MRI

Melanie Hafdi, Henk J. MM Mutsaerts, Jan Petr, Edo Richard, Jan Willem van Dalen

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Background: Arterial spin labeling (ASL) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be a promising technique to evaluate the presence of cerebral atherosclerosis. We tested whether the new and easily calculated ASL MRI parameter for vascular and tissue signal distribution - ‘spatial coefficient of variation’ (ASL-sCoV) - is a better radiological marker for atherosclerotic risk than the more conventional markers of white matter hyperintensity (WMH) volume and cerebral blood flow (ASL-CBF). Methods: Participants of the preDIVA trial (n = 195), aged 72–80 years with systolic hypertension (>140 mmHg) underwent two MRI scans two to three years apart. WMH volume was derived from 3D FLAIR-MRI; gray matter ASL-CBF and ASL-sCoV from ASL-MRI. Atherosclerotic risk was operationalized as 10-year cardiovascular risk by the Systematic COronary Risk Evaluation Older Persons (SCORE O.P) and calculated at baseline and follow-up. Data were analyzed using linear regression. Results: ASL-CBF was associated with atherosclerotic risk scores at baseline (standardized-beta = -0.26, 95 %CI = -0.40 to −0.13, p < 0.001) but not at follow-up (standardized-beta = -0.14, 95 %CI = -0.33 to 0.04, p = 0.12). ASL-sCoV was associated with atherosclerotic risk scores at both time points (baseline standardized-beta = 0.23, 95 %CI = 0.10 to 0.36, p < 0.0001, follow-up standardized beta = 0.20, 95 %CI = 0.03 to 0.36, p = 0.02). WMH volume was not associated with atherosclerotic risk scores at either time-point. There were no longitudinal associations between changes in MRI parameters and baseline atherosclerotic risk scores. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that ASL-sCoV correlates better with atherosclerotic risk than the more conventional markers ASL-CBF and WMH volume. Our data reaffirm that non-invasive imaging with MRI is highly informative and could provide additional information about cerebrovascular damage.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103142
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Arterial spin labeling MRI
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cerebral perfusion
  • Spatial coefficient of variation
  • White matter hyperintensity volume

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