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Alzheimer's Disease

Medical Terminology Definition

04/01/2004

Question:

What do these words mean? Small vessel disease/moderate chronic ischemic disease of the white matter/mild cortical atrophy/ My father in-law was just diagnosed with dementia have to explain it to him. I need help to let him know the stages which face him. A CAT scan found this can you help me?. Thank you

Answer:

These CAT scan findings are very common in elderly people with dementia. "Small vessel disease/chronic ischemic disease of the white matter" means that there are changes in the vascular, or blood vessel system of the part of the brain that contains nerve cells that connect various parts of the brain to each other and send signals to each other. "Mild cortical atrophy" means that the brain is shrinking, believed to be related to the death of brain cells that make up the brain". The stage of dementia and the expected course would depend on the specific cause of dementia in his case (e.g., Alzheimer`s disease, vascular dementia). His physician should determine this and advise you.

In general, dementia is a slowly progressing disease, roughly broken down into 3 stages: mild, moderate, and severe, with the average duration estimated at 10 years (range 3-20).

Alexander P. Auchus, MD
Associate Professor of Neurology
Case Western Reserve University
University Memory and Aging Center

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Response by:

Paula K Ogrocki, PhD Paula K Ogrocki, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University