Many people with stroke suffer from some cognitive or memory impairments. A particularly important cause of cognitive impairment is lacunar stroke or cerebral small vessel disease (SVD). In SVD, the small blood vessels in the brain become affected and this can result in many small (lacunar) strokes and also diffuse damage to the brain called leukoaraiosis. We now know that SVD of the brain is a major cause of vascular dementia and cognitive impairment particularly in the elderly.
Unfortunately there is very little research in this area, because we do not have very good tests to detect cognitive impairment in SVD patients. The tests commonly used have been developed for diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and the pattern of cognitive impairment is quite different in SVD so these tests cannot be used to detect SVD accurately.
We have developed a simple screening test for cognitive impairment in SVD which can be administered by doctors, nurses and researchers. Before the test is suitable to be adopted on a widespread scale it needs further evaluation in a much larger study involving many UK based centres.