Vascular cognitive disorder. A biological and clinical overview.

Research paper by Leontino L Battistin, Annachiara A Cagnin

Indexed on: 04 Dec '10Published on: 04 Dec '10Published in: Neurochemical Research


Although vascular dementia (VaD) represents the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer's disease (AD) in the elderly, and is referred as the "silent epidemic of the twenty-first century", there is still a controversy on terminology, classification and diagnostic criteria of VaD. The diagnosis of VaD resides in clinical criteria determining a cognitive impairment, the presence of cerebrovascular disease and, only in the case of post-stroke dementia or multi-infarct dementia, a temporal relationship between these. The search for a reliable biochemical tests helping in the diagnosis of VaD is so far not available. Several vascular risk factors have a role in the development of VaD and their identification and treatment are among the major aspects of management of VaD. A new line of research in this field is the study of genetic factors underlying vascular cognitive impairment which are: (1) genes predisposing to cerebrovascular disease, and (2) genes that influence brain tissue responses to cerebrovascular lesions. Evidence in favour of a coexistence of vascular and degenerative components in the pathogenesis of dementia in an elderly population comes from neuropathological and epidemiological studies. There is now a great debate whether VaD and AD are more than common coexisting unrelated pathologies and, instead, represent different results of synergistic pathological mechanisms. Preventive approaches aiming at reducing incident VaD by targeting patients at risk of cerebrovascular disease (primary prevention), or acting on patients after a stroke (secondary prevention) to prevent stroke recurrence and the progression of brain changes associated with cognitive impairment are mandatory therapeutic strategies.