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Dr. Abby
Dr. Abby, Board Certified MD
Category: Health
Satisfied Customers: 10330
Experience:  Family Physician, practicing medicine for over 10 years, United States
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Had MRI of the brain. What does Deep white matter signal

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Had MRI of the brain. What does "Deep white matter signal intensity change consistent with chronic small vessel disease" mean?

Why did you have the MRI?
Do you have any chronic health problems? (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc)?

Dr Abby
Customer: replied 5 years ago.


Had a nasty fall and hit my head. The Dx for the test was Syncope, however, after fall I blanked out for about a minute. My dtr told my PCP it looked like I had a small seizure. No, no hx of seizures.

Ok, thank you for clarifying.
I am sorry that happened to you. I am sure that was quite frightening for your daughter to witness.

As you may know, we have different sizes of our blood vessels (from large to small). The larger blood vessels, such as the carotid arteries in the neck, branch off multiple times to form the smaller blood vessels that supply all of the areas of the brain.
These tiny blood vessels are often the first to be affected by certain chronic diseases that we may develop or may simply be affected by aging.

Diseases that commonly affect the small blood vessels include diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

When the blood flow to these tiny vessels is diminished, this causes a characteristic appearance on the MRI.

Many people have no symptoms of small vessel disease.
But, the fact that it is present on the MRI does suggest an increase risk of stroke in the future.

For this reason, it is important to control any risk factors--for example, if you have high blood pressure, good control is important. Control of high cholesterol and diabetes are also important for helping to prevent a stroke in the future.

There are no specific medications for small vessel disease.

I do not think that your syncope was likely due to this finding.

This finding is not uncommon as we get older.

Please feel free to ask any follow up questions,

Dr Abby

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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

My bp is normal and lipid panel is well within the normal range. I don't have diabetes. What I'm worried about is Alzheimer's as my mother and 2 aunts had it. Could small vessel disease lead to that?


Chronic small vessels disease is a very non-specific finding.
It does not correlate with a risk for Alzheimer's disease. It can be associated with a different type of dementia (called vascular dementia). However, many normal adults have these changes as well with no future development of dementia.

These small vessel changes, as mentioned above, can simply occur due to aging in some people.

Dr Abby
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