Circumferential segmental vessel-wall enhancement on black blood MRI in patients referred for the evaluation of vasculopathy


      • Circumferential intracranial arterial wall enhancement doesn't always mean vasculitis.
      • Posterior circulation arterial wall enhancement may be largely due to vasa vasora.
      • Anterior circulation arterial wall enhancement may herald early atherosclerosis.



      High resolution intracranial vessel wall magnetic resonance imaging, or black blood MRI, has recently gained traction as an adjunct to computed tomography angiography, magnetic resonance angiography, and digital subtraction angiography in the characterization of atherosclerosis, vasculitides, and inflammatory changes in the aneurysm wall. However, the occurrence of uniform circumferential segmental arterial vessel wall enhancement (CSWE) in patients without these diagnoses has not previously been studied. The purpose of this study is twofold: 1) to evaluate the prevalence of CSWE in the major intracranial arteries in patients without vasculitides, symptomatic atherosclerosis, or aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage and 2) to determine the association, if any, between such enhancement and risk factors for cerebrovascular atherosclerotic disease.

      Materials & methods

      A retrospective study of vessel wall magnetic resonance imaging examinations was performed to evaluate for CSWE in 26 patients without known vessel wall pathology such as aneurysms or vasculitides and intracranial hemorrhage. Further evaluation of CSWE association with major intracranial atherosclerotic disease risk factors including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus and cigarette smoking was performed.

      Results and conclusion

      46% of the cohort of patients demonstrated CSWE. Among the patients with CSWE, there was increased prevalence of CSWE in the posterior circulation vasculature with particular predilection to the V4 vertebral artery segments (92%), although there was greater association of anterior circulation CSWE with risk factors for atherosclerosis. Patients with anterior circulation CSWE also demonstrated the most number of segments with CSWE. We therefore propose that CSWE, particularly in the anterior circulation, may portend early atherosclerosis.


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