Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract A 55-year-old mildly hypertensive woman died after having developed a subcortical dementia during the past 9 years, with focal neurological signs. She presented at the age of 46 years with short episodes of dizziness and diplopia, suggesting that transient ischemic attacks involved the posterior fossa structures. Over the next 8 years, she developed difficulty in walking, urinary incontinence and seizures. On examination in 1989, she was severely demented. There was tetraparesis, bilateral arm and leg spasticity with hyperreflexia and bilateral Babinski signs. She showed epilepsia partialis continua involving the eyes, left hemiface and limbs. CT showed hypodensity of the white matter and lacunes in the basal ganglia and centrum semiovale, moderate hydrocephalus with cerebellar and cortical atrophy. Clinical and radiological features were similar to those of Binswanger's disease. Similar cases had occurred in the family affecting the patient's grandfather, father and two brothers, suggesting an autosomal dominant hereditary disease. Postmortem examination disclosed a Binswanger type of leukoencephalopathy caused by a peculiar microangiopathy characterized by a slightly basophilic small arterial granular degeneration of the medial sheath associated with the presence of ballooned smooth muscle cells with clear cytoplasm. Electron microscopic study revealed degenerative changes in the parietal vessels with notable increase of basalmembrane-type material and electron-dense granular deposits. These lesions could correspond to a specific familial pathology of the small arteries of the brain. They are identical to those reported in some patients with autosomal dominant inheritance. For other patients with similar clinical features and the same familial pattern, reported as “hereditary multi-infarct dementia” and “cronic familial vascular encephalopathy”, there are no sufficient objective pathological facts to consider that they have the same disease. The absence of amyloid pathology in our case differentiates it from the hereditary central nervous system amyloid angiopathies. Finally, patients with non-familial Binswanger's syndrome, but without hypertension, could exceptionally have the same vascular granular degeneration. Presumably, this vasculopathy of uncertain pathogenesis could be related to a metabolic disorder of the basement membrane of smooth muscle cells.
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