To assess the correlation between leukoaraiosis (LA) and falls, to determine the risk factors for falls in patients with LA, and to detect specific white matter tracts are associated with the falls by using the diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DTI) screen.
For the elderly patients with LA, we collected demographic information and scores for the Tinetti Balance and Gait Scale, Berg Balance Scale, Timed up-and-go test, and Cognitive, Emotional, Sleep-related Scale. All the patients underwent DTI scanning and were followed up for 1 year.
Ninety-four individuals were prospectively enrolled. After multivariable analyses, age, history of falls in the past year, antidepressants usage, and LA-Fazekas grade were reported to be risk factors for falls. In patients with severe LA, the fall incidence was higher than in those with mild LA. Tract-Based Spatial Statistics showed that fractional anisotropy values of the corpus callosum, cingulate gyrus, anterior limb of internal capsule, cerebral peduncle, anterior corona, and fronto-occipital fasciculus were significantly reduced in the patients who fell. The body of the corpus callosum and anterior corona radiate were significantly related to balance and gait function.
Our findings indicated that age, history of falls in the past year, antidepressants usage, and LA-Fazekas grade were risk factors for falls in elderly patients with LA. Leukoaraiosis was relevant for falls, but LA severity had a threshold effect with falls. The loss of integrity of some white matter tracts might influence balance and gait function. The DTI had preeminent clinical application prospects for identifying fall risk in patients with LA.