Stratifying Future Stroke Risk with Incidentally Discovered White Matter Disease Severity and Covert Brain Infarct Site

Andy Y. Wang, Lester Y. Leung, Eric J. Puttock, Patrick H. Luetmer, David F. Kallmes, Jason Nelson, Sunyang Fu, Chengyi Zheng, Hongfang Liu, Wansu Chen, David M. Kent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Covert cerebrovascular disease (CCD) includes white matter disease (WMD) and covert brain infarction (CBI). Incidentally discovered CCD is associated with increased risk of subsequent symptomatic stroke. However, it is unknown whether the severity of WMD or the location of CBI predicts risk. Objectives: The aim of this study was to examine the association of incidentally discovered WMD severity and CBI location with risk of subsequent symptomatic stroke. Method: This retrospective cohort study includes patients aged ≥50 years old in the Kaiser Permanente Southern California health system who received neuroimaging for a nonstroke indication between 2009 and 2019. Incidental CBI and WMD were identified via natural language processing of the neuroimage report, and WMD severity was classified into grades. Results: A total of 261,960 patients received neuroimaging; 78,555 patients (30.0%) were identified to have incidental WMD and 12,857 patients (4.9%) to have incidental CBI. Increasing WMD severity is associated with an increased incidence rate of future stroke. However, the stroke incidence rate in CT-identified WMD is higher at each level of severity compared to rates in MRI-identified WMD. Patients with mild WMD via CT have a stroke incidence rate of 24.9 per 1,000 person-years, similar to that of patients with severe WMD via MRI. Among incidentally discovered CBI patients with a determined CBI location, 97.9% are subcortical rather than cortical infarcts. CBI confers a similar risk of future stroke, whether cortical or subcortical or whether MRI- or CT-detected. Conclusions: Increasing severity of incidental WMD is associated with an increased risk of future symptomatic stroke, dependent on the imaging modality. Subcortical and cortical CBI conferred similar risks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-122
Number of pages6
JournalCerebrovascular Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • Covert brain infarction
  • Covert cerebrovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • White matter disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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