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How does a doctor identify small vessel ischemia on an MRI?

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A doctor can identify small vessel ischemia through magnetic resonance imaging by the presence of lacunar infarcts, deep white-matter hypersensitivities and cerebral micro-bleeding, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The American Heart Association reports that the high contrast resolution of magnetic resonance imaging enhances its effectiveness.

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A special magnetic resonance imaging technique called diffusion weighted imaging is especially effective at identifying early stage lacunar infarcts, according to Drugs.com. Thirteen percent of those undergoing magnetic resonance imaging show white-matter hypertension lesions, according to the American Heart Association. This percentage increases with age and with other factors, such as high blood pressure, migraine headaches and diabetes.

Small vessel ischemia, also known as white matter disease, happens deep in the basal ganglia or deep white matter of the brain. Lesions form in the small perforating arteries and inhibit blood flow. Researchers, as reported by The National Center for Biotechnology Information, note that small vessel ischemia, once considered a relatively benign disorder, increases mid- and long-term risk of death, stroke recurrence and dementia. Data reported in 2015 indicates that 36 percent to 67 percent of dementia cases evidence small vessel ischemia, and it is recognized as a leading cause of vascular dementia.

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