Causes and consequences of lacunar stroke
Makin, Stephen David James
Introduction Lacunar strokes are both common and disabling; they cause up to 52 strokes per 100,000 people per year and 29-46% of survivors are disabled. Lacunar stroke is part of the spectrum of small vessel disease (SVD) which also causes cognitive impairment and gait disturbance; together these lead to dementia, falls and disability. Current evidence suggests that SVD is caused by a separate aetiology from large vessel stroke, which may be mediated by blood brain barrier (BBB) permeability and may affect organs other than the brain. We set out to establish whether SVD is a multi-system disorder of primary endothelial function, with leakage of blood-brain barrier leading to lacunar stroke, disability, and cognitive impairment. Methods We recruited 264 patients with a lacunar or cortical stroke (118 lacunar, 146 cortical). All patients received baseline assessment of clinical features, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), renal function, and assessment of dietary salt. At 1-3 months post-stroke we carried out cognitive testing and contrast MRI to assess blood-brain barrier integrity. We followed patients up at 12 months post-stroke with repeat cognitive testing, MRI, and assessment of disability and recurrent stroke. Results We established that lacunar stroke has a different risk factor profile to cortical stroke, confirming findings from previous cohorts, but adding dietary salt as a risk factor for lacunar stroke and other SVD features. We confirmed that patients with a clinical stroke who did not have a lesion on diffusion-weighted MRI had the same clinical outcomes at 1 year post-stroke as those patients who did have a lesion. We established that patients who have a lacunar stroke are at as high a risk of post-stroke cognitive impairment as those with a cortical stroke. We found that blood brain barrier leakage predicted cognitive impairment at one year after lacunar and cortical stroke. We established the rates of disability and cognitive impairment at one-year post-lacunar stroke to estimate the required sample size for future trials. Conclusions Taken together these findings confirm that lacunar stroke is part of a syndrome separate to large vessel stroke and may be mediated through blood brain barrier leakage. Dietary salt is an additional risk factor. The findings support further randomised controlled trials of treatments aimed specifically at lacunar stroke and lifestyle interventions including dietary salt reduction.