White matter lesions are associated with progression of medial temporal lobe atrophy in Alzheimer disease

Frank Erik De Leeuw, Esther Korf, Frederik Barkhof, Philip Scheltens

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BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE - Medial temporal lobe atrophy (MTA) is a hallmark of Alzheimer disease (AD). Its progression is often seen during the course of AD, but its frequency and risk factors remain unclear. METHODS - We investigated MTA in 35 patients with AD from whom sequential magnetic resonance imaging scans were available. White matter lesions (WML; for the periventricular [PV] and subcortical [SC] regions separately) and MTA were rated semiquantitatively. RESULTS - In approximately two thirds of all patients, progression of MTA was found. The mean MTA progression was 0.8 (standard deviation: 0.5) and 0.3 (standard deviation: 0.4) for patients with or without PVWML at baseline (P=0.01). Patients who showed progression of PVWML over the course of their disease had a significantly higher mean progression of MTA than those without PVWML progression (0.9 [SD: 0.4]) and 0.4 [SD: 0.5]; P=0.01). Patients with PVWML at baseline had a 40-fold increased risk for progression of MTA compared with those without baseline PVWML (odds ratio=40.0, 95% CI=1.3 to 1.2×103, P=0.03). Patients with progression of PVWML during the course of the disease had an increased risk for MTA progression (odds ratio=3.7 per unit increase of progression of PVWML, 95% CI=1.1 to 12.9, P=0.04). There was higher risk for progression of MTA for those with progression of PVWML than those without (odds ratio=10.9, 95% CI=1.0 to 122.5, P=0.05). This was not found for SCWML. CONCLUSIONS - Our findings suggest that the presence and the progression of WML are associated with progression of MTA in AD. WML may be a predictor of the course of the disease and a potential treatment target in AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2248-2252
Number of pages5
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2006


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer disease
  • Small-vessel disease
  • White matter

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