Correlation of adventitial vasa vasorum with intracranial atherosclerosis: A postmortem study

Lu Zheng, Wen Jie Yang, Chun Bo Niu, Hai Lu Zhao, Ka Sing Wong, Thomas Wai Hong Leung, Xiang Yan Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Purpose Vasa vasorum (VV) have been believed to be rare or non-existent in small-caliber intracranial arteries. In a series of human cerebral artery specimens, we identified and examined the distribution of VV in association with co-existing intracranial atherosclerosis. Methods We obtained cerebral artery specimens from 32 consecutive autopsies of subjects aged 45 years or above. We scrutinized middle cerebral artery (MCA), vertebral artery (VA), and basilar artery (BA) for the presence of adventitial VV. We described the distribution of VV, and the characteristics of co-existing atherosclerotic lesions. Results Among 157 intracranial arteries, adventitial VV were present in 74 of the 157 specimens (47%), involving MCA (n=13, 18%), BA (n=14, 19%), and VA (n=47, 64%). Although qualitatively these 74 adventitial VV distributed similarly in arteries with or without atherosclerotic lesions (disease-free arteries n=4/8; arteries of pre-atherosclerosis n=17/42; and arteries of progressive atherosclerosis n=53/107), the presence of adventitial VV in intracranial VA was associated with a heavier plaque load (1.72±1.66 mm2 vs. 0.40±0.32 mm2, P<0.001), severer luminal stenosis (25%±21% vs. 12%±9%, P=0.002), higher rate of concentric lesions (79% vs. 36%, P=0.002), and denser intraplaque calcification (44% vs. 0%, P=0.003). Histologically, intracranial VA with VV had a larger diameter (3.40±0.79 mm vs. 2.34±0.58 mm, P<0.001), thicker arterial wall (0.31±0.13 mm vs. 0.23±0.06 mm, P=0.002), and a larger intima-media (0.19±0.09 mm vs. 0.13± 0.04 mm, P=0.003) than VA without VV. Conclusions Our study demonstrated the distribution of adventitial VV within brain vasculature and association between vertebral VV and progressive atherosclerotic lesions with a heavier plaque load and denser intraplaque calcification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-349
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Stroke
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2018


  • Angiogenesis
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Vasa vasorum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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