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Neuropathological evaluation of mixed dementia

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Johannes Attems


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Mixed dementia (MD) refers to a combination of definite Alzheimer disease (AD) and vascular encephalopathy, but the distinction between both disorders is controversial. For the diagnosis of MD the clinical/neuroimaging criteria of possible AD plus cerebrovascular disease (CVD) as separate entities are used, but causal relations between vascular brain lesions and dementia are unclear. We proposed the combination of autopsy-proven AD with multiple vascular or ischemic lesions with about 30-50 ml of infarcted/damaged brain tissue. The population-based prevalence of MD is unknown. In retrospective and prospective autopsy studies, it ranges from 2 to 58% with reasonable means of 6-12%. In a consecutive autopsy series of 1500 demented elderly subjects, 830 of which with clinically probable AD, in Vienna, Austria, 41.5 to 52.0% showed "pure" AD, 7% atypical AD, 16-20% AD plus cerebrovascular lesions, and 9% AD plus Lewy body pathology; MD was diagnosed in 4.6 and 2.4%, and "pure" vascular dementia (VaD) in 11 and 2.0%, respectively, while 16.3/6.1% were other dementing disorders, and 1% showed no specific pathology. Like the MRC-CFAS and other studies, this indicates frequent coexistence of AD with multiple cerebrovascular lesions in cognitively impaired patients. In both AD and VaD, vascular lesions frequently involved subcortical regions (basal ganglia, thalamus, hippocampus, and white matter) or were multiple microinfarcts, whereas in MD, large/hemispheral infarcts and multiple microinfarcts were more frequent, suggesting different pathogenic mechanisms. In early/mild AD, critically located small vascular lesions may induce/promote cognitive decline, but in full-blown AD they appear of minor importance. Discussion of the major pathogenic factors inducing AD, VaD and MD suggests synergistic relations between these disorders. However, currently available morphological criteria for AD and VaD are of limited value for the diagnosis of MD and generally accepted and validated histopathological criteria for the diagnosis of VaD and MD are currently not available. Therefore, more distinct and critically evaluated clinico-pathological criteria are warranted.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jellinger KA, Attems J

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of the Neurological Sciences

Year: 2007

Volume: 257

Issue: 1-2

Pages: 80-87

ISSN (print): 0022-510X

ISSN (electronic): 1878-5883


DOI: 10.1016/j.jns.2007.01.045