The Hyperintense study: Assessing the effects of induced blood pressure increase and decrease on MRI markers of cerebral small vessel disease: Study rationale and protocol
Neuroimaging markers of cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) are common in older individuals, but the pathophysiological mechanisms causing these lesions remain poorly understood. Although hypertension is a major risk factor for SVD, the direct causal effects of increased blood pressure are unknown. The Hyperintense study is designed to examine cerebrovascular and structural abnormalities, possibly preceding SVD, in young adults with hypertension. These patients undergo a diagnostic work-up that requires patients to temporarily discontinue their antihypertensive agents, often leading to an increase in blood pressure followed by a decrease once effective medication is restarted. This allows examination of the effects of blood pressure increase and decrease on the cerebral small vessels.Methods:
Hyperintense is a prospective observational cohort study in 50 hypertensive adults (18–55 years) who will temporarily discontinue antihypertensive medication for diagnostic purposes. MRI and clinical data is collected at four timepoints: before medication withdrawal (baseline), once antihypertensives are largely or completely withdrawn (T = 1), when patients have restarted medication (T = 2) and reached target blood pressure and 1 year later (T = 3). The 3T MRI protocol includes conventional structural sequences and advanced techniques to assess various aspects of microvascular integrity, including blood-brain barrier function using Dynamic Contrast Enhanced MRI, white matter integrity, and microperfusion. Clinical assessments include motor and cognitive examinations and blood sampling.Discussion:
The Hyperintense study will improve the understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms following hypertension that may cause SVD. This knowledge can ultimately help to identify new targets for treatment of SVD, aimed at prevention or limiting disease progression.