Subclinical Cerebrovascular Disease: Epidemiology and Treatment

  • Adam de HavenonEmail author
  • Chelsea Meyer
  • J. Scott McNally
  • Matthew Alexander
  • Lee Chung
Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke (S. Prabhakaran, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke


Purpose of Review

Subclinical cerebrovascular disease (sCVD) is highly prevalent in older adults. The main neuroimaging findings of sCVD include white matter hyperintensities and silent brain infarcts on T2-weighted MRI and cerebral microbleeds on gradient echo or susceptibility-weighted MRI. In this paper, we will review the epidemiology of sCVD, the current evidence for best medical management, and future directions for sCVD research.

Recent Findings

Numerous epidemiologic studies show that sCVD, in particular WMH, is an important risk factor for the development of dementia, stroke, worse outcomes after stroke, gait instability, late-life depression, and death. Effective treatment of sCVD could have major consequences for the brain health of a substantial portion of older Americans. Despite the link between sCVD and many vascular risk factors, such as hypertension or hyperlipidemia, the optimal medical treatment of sCVD remains uncertain.


Given the clinical equipoise about the risk versus benefit of aggressive medical management for sCVD, clinical trials to examine pragmatic, evidence-based approaches to management of sCVD are needed. Such a trial could provide much needed guidance on how to manage a common clinical scenario facing internists and neurologists in practice.


Subclinical cerebrovascular disease White matter hyperintensity Silent cerebral infarct Cerebral microbleed 


Funding Information

Dr. de Havenon, NIH/NINDS K23NS105924.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Adam de Havenon, Chelsea Meyer, J. Scott McNally, Matthew Alexander, and Lee Chung declare no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam de Havenon
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chelsea Meyer
    • 1
  • J. Scott McNally
    • 2
  • Matthew Alexander
    • 2
  • Lee Chung
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of RadiologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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