Cerebral white matter changes (leukoaraiosis), stroke, and gait disturbance

Dennis P. Briley, Mohammad Wasay, Susan Sergent, Stuart Thomas

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76 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: Leukoaraiosis, a radiological change of cerebral white matter thought to be caused by ischemia, is associated with gait disturbance. However, because of concomitant stroke and cerebral atrophy, the clinical relevance of leukoaraiosis is uncertain. We, therefore, sought to determine if leukoaraiosis is a predictor of gait disturbance after accounting for cerebral atrophy and stroke in patients with a high prevalence of cerebrovascular disease. DESIGN: Cross-sectional observational study. SETTING: Neurology service (inpatient and outpatient) of a Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital. PARTICIPANTS: Consecutive sample of 130 patients, 127 men and three women. MEASUREMENTS: The findings of a gait scale were correlated to vascular risk factors, neurological examination as quantified by the NIH stroke scale and supplemental motor scale, and to brain CT findings. Brain CT scans were rated for leukoaraiosis, cerebral infarction, and cerebral atrophy. RESULTS: Gait disturbance was more frequent and more severe in subjects with leukoaraiosis, of whom 31% had mild and 49% moderate/severe gait disturbance compared with 27% with mild and 12% with moderate/severe gait disturbance in subjects without leukoaraiosis (P < .001). Leukoaraiosis, cerebral atrophy, a history of multiple strokes, and weakness and ataxia of the legs were independent predictors of gait disturbance. The proportion and severity of leukoaraiosis increased with increasing gait disturbance in subgroups without leg deficit (P < .001) and without multiple strokes (P (.001), but no association with leukoaraiosis was shown in patients with leg deficit or a history of multiple strokes (P = .037 and P = .186, respectively). Gait disturbance was more severe when both leukoaraiosis and cerebral atrophy were present (P = .019). CONCLUSION: In our Veteran population, leukoaraiosis is an independent predictor of gait disturbance after accounting for stroke and cerebral atrophy. Although leukoaraiosis is a form of cerebrovascular disease, it appears to be most closely associated to gait disturbance in the absence of symptomatic stroke or leg deficit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1434-1438
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1997
Externally publishedYes


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