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Axial T2 FLAIR sequence MR image of a middle-aged man with leukoaraiosis.
MRI image: Leukoaraiosis in a 90-year-old patient with cerebral atrophy.
Head CT showing periventricular white matter lesions.

Leukoaraiosis is a particular abnormal change in appearance of white matter near the lateral ventricles. It is often seen in aged individuals, but sometimes in young adults.[1] [2]On MRI, leukoaraiosis changes appear as white matter hyperintensities (WMHs)[3][4] On CT scans, leukoaraiosis appears as hypodense periventricular white-matter lesions.[5]

The term leukoaraiosis was coined in 1986[6][7] by Hachinski, Potter, and Merskey as a descriptive term for rarefaction ("araiosis") of the white matter, showing up as decreased density on CT and increased signal intensity on T2/FLAIR sequences (white matter hyperintensities) performed as part of MRI brain scans.

These white matter changes are also commonly referred to as periventricular white matter disease, or white matter hyperintensities (WMH) due to their bright white appearance on T2 MRI scans. Many patients can have leukoaraiosis without any associated clinical abnormality. However, underlying vascular mechanisms are suspected to be the cause of the imaging findings. Hypertension, smoking, diabetes,[3] hyperhomocysteinemia, and heart disease are all risk factors for leukoaraiosis.

Leukoaraiosis has been reported to be an initial stage of Binswanger's disease but this evolution does not always happen.


White matter hyperintensities can be caused by a variety of factors including ischemia, micro-hemorrhages, gliosis, damage to small blood vessel walls, breaches of the barrier between the cerebrospinal fluid and the brain, or loss and deformation of the myelin sheath.[8] Multiple small vessel infarcts in the subcortical white matter can cause the condition, often the result of chronic hypertension leading to lipohyalinosis of the small vessels. Patients may develop subcortical dementia syndrome.[9]

Special cases[edit]

  • Ischaemic Leukoaraiosis has been defined as the leukoaraiosis present after a stroke.[10]
  • Diabetes associated leukoaraiosis has been reported[11]
  • CuRRL syndrome: increased Cup: Disc Ratio, Retinal GanglionCell Complex thinning, Radial Peripapillary Capillary Network Density Reduction and Leukoaraiosis[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ J. Putaala, MD, M. Kurkinen, MD, V. Tarvos, MD, O. Salonen, MD, PhD, M. Kaste, MD, PhD and T. Tatlisumak, MD, PhD Silent brain infarcts and leukoaraiosis in young adults with first-ever ischemic stroke, Neurology May 26, 2009 vol. 72 no. 21 1823-1829, doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181a711df
  2. ^ a b Aik Kah, Tan (2018). "CuRRL Syndrome: A Case Series" (PDF). Acta Scientific Ophthalmology. 1.3: 9–13.
  3. ^ a b Habes M, Erus G, Toledo JB, Zhang T, Bryan N, Launer LJ, Rosseel Y, Janowitz D, Doshi J, Van der Auwera S, von Sarnowski B, Hegenscheid K, Hosten N, Homuth G, Völzke H, Schminke U, Hoffmann W, Grabe H, Davatzikos C (2016). "White matter hyperintensities and imaging patterns of brain ageing in the general population". Brain. 139 (Pt 4): 1164–1179. doi:10.1093/brain/aww008. PMID 26912649.
  4. ^ http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnagi.2014.00144/full
  5. ^ Kobari M, Meyer JS, Ichijo M, Oravez WT (1990). "Leukoaraiosis: correlation of MR and CT findings with blood flow, atrophy, and cognition". AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 11 (2): 273–81. PMID 2107711.
  6. ^ Hachinski, VC; Potter, P; Merskey, H (1986). "Leuko-araiosis: An ancient term for a new problem". The Canadian journal of neurological sciences. 13 (4 Suppl): 533–4. PMID 3791068.
  7. ^ Hachinski, V. C.; Potter, P.; Merskey, H. (1987). "Leuko-Araiosis". Archives of Neurology. 44 (1): 21–3. doi:10.1001/archneur.1987.00520130013009. PMID 3800716.
  8. ^ Raz N, Yang Y, Dahle CL, Land S (2012). "Volume of white matter hyperintensities in healthy adults: contribution of age, vascular risk factors, and inflammation-related genetic variants". Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. 1822 (3): 361–369. doi:10.1016/j.bbadis.2011.08.007. PMC 3245802. PMID 21889590.
  9. ^ Fauci, Anthony S.; Braunwald, Eugene; Weiner, Charles; Kasper, Dennis L.; Hauser, Stephen L.; Longo, Dan L.; Jameson, J. Larry; Loscalzo, Joseph (2008). Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine (17th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-149619-3.[page needed]
  10. ^ M O’Sullivan1, R G Morris2, B Huckstep2, D K Jones3, S C R Williams4, H S Markus1, Diffusion tensor MRI correlates with executive dysfunction in patients with ischaemic leukoaraiosis, J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2004;75:441-447 doi:10.1136/jnnp.2003.014910 [1]
  11. ^ Maldjian JA, Whitlow CT, Saha BN, Kota G, Vandergriff C, Davenport EM, Divers J, Freedman BI, Bowden DW. Automated White Matter Total Lesion Volume Segmentation in Diabetes. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2013 Jul 18

Further reading[edit]