An elevated plasma total homocysteine (tHcy) level is associated with an increased risk of vascular disease. Some studies have shown associations between tHcy level and small-vessel disease of the brain on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
In the Cardiovascular Health Study, 622 elderly participants without a history of transient ischemic attack or stroke had results for tHcy level and cranial MRI. We sought associations between tHcy level and MRI findings of ventricular grade, sulcal grade, white matter grade, and infarcts. We controlled for other factors, including levels of creatinine, folate, and vitamins B6 and B12 and methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase genotype.
After controlling for age and sex, tHcy level was not associated with the individual MRI findings. Further adjustments for other factors and other blood tests had little effect on these findings. The only significant finding was a linear trend across quintiles of tHcy level and a pattern of MRI findings combining infarcts and high white matter grade. The linear trend remained significant after controlling for other risk factors and atherosclerotic markers (top quintile vs bottom quintile odds ratio, 3.3; 95% confidence interval, 0.96-11.20; P = .04 for linear trend) but was slightly diminished after further controlling for creatinine, folate, and vitamins B6 and B12 (odds ratio, 3.2; 95% confidence interval, 0.81-13.10; P = .07 for linear trend).
We were unable to confirm the results of previous studies with respect to tHcy level and individual MRI findings, although an association was seen for an MRI pattern combining infarcts and high white matter grade.