The incidence of T2-weighted MR imaging signal abnormalities in the brain of cocaine-dependent patients is age-related and region-specific

George Bartzokis, Iris B. Goldstein, Darwood B. Hance, Mace Beckson, David Shapiro, Po H. Lu, Nancy Edwards, Jim Mintz, Peter Bridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Cocaine and its metabolites can produce vasospasm, and cocaine-dependent patients are at increased risk for stroke. Based on previous case reports, we hypothesized that the incidence of hyperintense brain lesions observed on T2-weighted MR images would also be increased in asymptomatic cocaine-dependent individuals. METHODS: Sixty-two male 'crack' (smoked) cocaine-dependent participants ranging in age from 25 to 66 years were compared with 116 normal male control participants ranging in age from 25 to 80 years. Those with histories of neurologic symptoms or illnesses were excluded. The severity of hyperintense lesions was rated on a 0- to 3-point scale, and ratings of 3 were used in the data analysis as an indicator of a probable pathologic process. Three regions were separately rated: the cerebral white matter, insular subcortex white matter, and subcortical gray matter (basal ganglia and thalamus region). RESULTS: Significantly increased risk of severe lesions was observed in the two white matter regions of the cocaine-dependent group (odds ratio of 16.7 and 20.3) but not in the subcortial gray matter region (odds ratio of 1.4). In the insula subcortex white matter, the risk of lesions increased with age in the cocaine-dependant sample, but remained essentially absent among normal controls through the age of 80 years. In the cerebral white matter, the relationship of age and risk of lesion among normal participants was similar in shape to that in cocaine-dependent participants, but equivalent risk was seen 20 years earlier among cocaine-dependent participants. CONCLUSIONS: Cocaine-dependent participants had a significantly increased age-related risk of white matter damage. The possible clinical implications of this damage are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1628-1635
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology


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