Vascular inflammation is present in a subset of patients with cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) and has a major influence in determining the disease manifestations. Radiological characterization of this subset is particularly important to achieve early recognition and treatment. We conducted this study to investigate the role of imaging in differentiating CAA with and without inflammation. We reviewed neuroimaging findings for 54 patients seen at Mayo Clinic over 25 years with pathological evidence of CAA and with available neuroimaging at the time of diagnosis. Clinical data were also recorded. Patients were grouped into CAA alone (no vascular inflammation), Aβ-related angiitis or ABRA (angiodestructive inflammation), and CAA-related inflammation or CAA-RI (perivascular inflammation). Imaging findings at presentation were compared among patient subgroups. Radiological features supporting a diagnosis of ABRA or CAA-RI were identified. Radiologic findings at diagnosis were available in 27 patients with CAA without inflammation, 22 with ABRA, and 5 with CAA-RI. On MRI, leptomeningeal disease alone or with infiltrative white matter was significantly more frequent at presentation in patients with ABRA or CAA-RI compared with those with CAA (29.6% vs. 3.7%, P=0.02; and 40.7% vs. 3.7%, P=0.002, respectively), whereas lobar hemorrhage was more frequent in patients with CAA (62.3% vs. 7.4%, P=0.0001). Overall, leptomeningeal involvement at presentation was present in 70.4% of patients with ABRA or CAA-RI and in only 7.4% of patients with CAA (P=0.0001). The sensitivity and specificity of leptomeningeal enhancement to identify patients with ABRA or CAA-RI were 70.4% and 92.6%, respectively, whereas the positive likelihood ratio (LR) was 9.5. The sensitivity and specificity of intracerebral hemorrhage to identify patients with CAA were 62.9% and 92.6%, respectively, whereas the positive LR was 8.5. Microbleeds were found in 70.4% of patients with inflammatory CAA at presentation. In conclusion, leptomeningeal enhancement and lobar hemorrhage at presentation may enable differentiation between CAA with and without inflammation. The identification at initial MRI of diffuse cortical-subcortical microbleeds in elderly patients presenting with infiltrative white matter process or prominent leptomeningeal enhancement is highly suggestive of vascular inflammatory CAA.
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