Stroke 2020 Jan 26;51(1):90-98. Epub 2019 Nov 26.
From the Department of Neurology (J.G., S.R., J.D., M.S.V.E.), Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY.
Background and Purpose- To test the hypothesis that covert brain infarcts (CBIs) are more likely to be located in noneloquent brain areas compared with clinical strokes and that CBI etiological subtypes carry a differential risk of vascular events compared with people without CBI. Methods- We used brain magnetic resonance imaging from 1290 stroke-free participants in the NOMAS (Northern Manhattan Study) to evaluate for CBI. We classified CBI as cardioembolic (ie, known atrial fibrillation), large artery atherosclerosis (extracranial and intracranial), penetrating artery disease, and cryptogenic (no apparent cause). CBI localized in the nonmotor areas of the right hemisphere were considered noneloquent. We then evaluated risk of events by CBI subtype with adjusted Cox proportional models. Results- At the time of magnetic resonance imaging, 236 participants (18%) had CBI (144 [61%] distal cryptogenic, 29 [12%] distal cardioembolic, 26 [11%] large artery atherosclerosis, and 37 [16%] penetrating artery disease). Smaller (per mm, odds ratio, 0.8 [0.8-0.9]) and nonbrain stem infarcts (odds ratio, 0.2 [0.1-0.6]) were more likely to be covert. During the follow-up period (10.4±3.1 years), 398 (31%) died (162 [13%] of vascular death) and 117 (9%) had a stroke (99 [85%]) were ischemic. Risks of events varied by CBI subtype, with the highest risk of stroke (hazard ratio, 2.2 [1.3-3.7]) and vascular death (hazard ratio, 2.24 [1.29-3.88]) noted in participants with intracranial large artery atherosclerosis-related CBI. Conclusions- CBI can be classified into subtypes that have differential outcomes. Certain CBI subtypes such as those related to intracranial large artery atherosclerosis have a high risk of adverse vascular outcomes and could warrant consideration of treatment trials.