What Are Chronic Small Vessel Ischemic Changes?

According to Net Wellness and BioMed Central, chronic small vessel ischemic changes are progressive changes that occur in the amount of blood flow through an artery when it becomes narrow, obstructed or hardened. Small vessel ischemic changes can occur due to lack of blood flow to the brain, otherwise known as arteriosclerosis.

Less blood flow to the brain can mean irreversible injury to brain tissue. Decreased blood flow occurs when an artery becomes too narrow or obstructed. Arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is caused by fatty deposits inside the vessels that cause its walls to become stiff and inflexible. The deposits, also referred to as plaques, make the inside of the vessels more narrow, allowing less room for blood to pass through. The immune system regards the plaques as wounds and in turn creates chronic inflammation, which can lead to blood clots that block the vessels and cause tissue death in the affected organ.

Per Augusta Free Press, patients suffering from chronic small vessel ischemic changes may suffer from memory impairment, interference with cognitive tasks, gait disturbances and balance issues. Additionally, dementia may happen as a result of small vessel ischemic changes causing hallucinations, memory loss and delusions. Chronic small vessel ischemic changes can be commonly found on an MRI in patients who have or have had hypertension, stroke, migraine headaches or other medical conditions.