Journal of magnetic resonance imaging : JMRI
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BACKGROUND: Ischemic heart disease (IHD) is linked to brain white matter (WM) breakdown but how age or disease effects WM integrity, and whether it is reversible using cardiac rehabilitation (CR), remains unclear.
PURPOSE: To assess the effects of brain aging, cardiovascular disease, and CR on WM microstructure in brains of IHD patients following a cardiac event.
STUDY TYPE: Retrospective.
POPULATION: Thirty-five IHD patients (9 females; mean age = 59 ± 8 years), 21 age-matched healthy controls (10 females; mean age = 59 ± 8 years), and 25 younger controls (14 females; mean age = 26 ± 4 years).
FIELD STRENGTH/SEQUENCE: 3 T diffusion-weighted imaging with single-shot echo planar imaging acquired at 3 months and 9 months post-cardiac event.
ASSESSMENT: Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) and tractometry were used to compare fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity (RD) in cerebral WM between: 1) older and younger controls to distinguish age-related from disease-related WM changes; 2) IHD patients at baseline (pre-CR) and age-matched controls to investigate if cardiovascular disease exacerbates age-related WM changes; and 3) IHD patients pre-CR and post-CR to investigate the neuroplastic effect of CR on WM microstructure.
STATISTICAL TESTS: Two-sample unpaired t-test (age: older vs. younger controls; IHD: IHD pre-CR vs. age-matched controls). One-sample paired t-test (CR: IHD pre- vs. post-CR). Statistical threshold: P < 0.05 (FWE-corrected).
RESULTS: TBSS and tractometry revealed widespread WM changes in older controls compared to younger controls while WM clusters of decreased FA in the fornix and increased MD in body of corpus callosum were observed in IHD patients pre-CR compared to age-matched controls. Robust WM improvements (increased FA, increased AD) were observed in IHD patients post-CR.
DATA CONCLUSION: In IHD, both brain aging and cardiovascular disease may contribute to WM disruptions. IHD-related WM disruptions may be favorably modified by CR.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: 3 TECHNICAL EFFICACY: Stage 2.
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