BACKGROUND: Cerebral small vessel disease (cSVD) is a late consequence of cerebral microvascular dysfunction (MVD). MVD is hard to measure in the brain due to its limited accessibility. Extracerebral MVD (eMVD) measures can give insights in the etiology of cerebral MVD, as MVD may be a systemic process. We aim to investigate whether a compound score consisting of several eMVD measures is associated with structural cSVD MRI markers.

METHODS: Cross-sectional data of the population-based Maastricht Study was used (n = 1872, mean age 59 ± 8 years, 49% women). Measures of eMVD included flicker light-induced retinal arteriolar and venular dilation response (retina), albuminuria and glomerular filtration rate (kidney), heat-induced skin hyperemia (skin), and plasma biomarkers of endothelial dysfunction (sICAM-1, sVCAM-1, sE-selectin, and von Willebrand factor). These measures were standardized into z scores and summarized into a compound score. Linear and logistic regression analyses were used to investigate the associations between the compound score and white matter hyperintensity (WMH) volume, and the presence of lacunes and microbleeds, as measured by brain MRI.

RESULTS: The eMVD compound score was associated with WMH volume independent of age, sex, and cardiovascular risk factors (St β 0.057 [95% CI 0.010-0.081], p value 0.01), but not with the presence of lacunes (OR 1.011 [95% CI 0.803-1.273], p value 0.92) or microbleeds (OR 1.055 [95% CI 0.896-1.242], p value 0.52).

CONCLUSION: A compound score of eMVD is associated with WMH volume. Further research is needed to expand the knowledge about the role of systemic MVD in the pathophysiology of cSVD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-157
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Early online date23 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Cerebral small vessel disease
  • Microcirculation
  • Microvascular dysfunction
  • White matter hyperintensities


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