Microbleeds in the healthy elderly

Nicholas Ferris, Parnesh Raniga, John McNeil, Robyn Woods, Elsdon Storey, Stephanie Barnes, Gary Egan

Our collaboration with the ASPREE (ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) trial continued in 2014, with the completion of baseline imaging for the ASPREE Neuro sub-study in 557 subjects. The ASPREE Neuro project aims to assess the effect of normal ageing on several putative biomarkers of cerebrovascular disease, as well as any modification of these effects by low-dose aspirin treatment.

In particular, it has recently been recognised that small, clinically occult, micro-haemorrhages are quite common in the brains of the healthy elderly. These are particularly well seen with a new MRI technique, Susceptibility-Weighted Imaging (SWI), especially if this is applied at 3T field strength. However, it is unclear whether the presence of these micro-haemorrhages indicates that the subject is at increased risk of later clinical haemorrhage, with or without low-dose aspirin. As part of the systematic reporting of the baseline scans of ASPREE Neuro subjects, the numbers of micro-haemorrhages, and their locations, were recorded.

One-year follow-up scans are now in progress, and the numbers of micro-haemorrhages identified in these scans will be compared with those in the baseline studies.