Vascular cognitive disorder: A new diagnostic category updating vascular cognitive impairment and vascular dementia
Vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) was proposed as an umbrella term to include subjects affected with any degree of cognitive impairment resulting from cerebrovascular disease (CVD), ranging from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to vascular dementia. VCI may or may not exclude the host of "focal" circumscribed impairments of specialized functions such as language (aphasia), intentional gesture (apraxia), or categorical recognition (agnosia), among others, that may result from a stroke. Therefore, there are no universally accepted diagnostic criteria for VCI. We conclude that this concept could be more useful if it were to be limited to cases of vascular MCI without dementia, by analogy with the concept of amnestic MCI, currently considered the earliest clinically diagnosable stage of Alzheimer disease (AD). In agreement with our view,the Canadian Study on Health and Aging successfully implemented a restricted definition of VCI, excluding cases of dementia (i.e., vascular cognitive impairment no dementia, VCI-ND). The Canadian definition and diagnostic criteria could be utilized for future studies of VCI. This definition excludes isolated impairments of specialized cognitive functions. Vascular dementia (VaD): The main problem of this diagnostic category stems from the currently accepted definition of dementia that requires memory loss as the sine qua non for the diagnosis. This may result in over-sampling of patients with AD worsened by stroke (AD+CVD). This problem was minimized in controlled clinical trials of VaD by excluding patients with a prior diagnosis of AD, those with pre-existing memory loss before the index stroke, and those with amnestic MCI. We propose a definition of dementia in VaD based on presence of abnormal executive control function, severe enough to interfere with social or occupational functioning. Vascular cognitive disorder (VCD): This term, proposed by Sachdev [P. Sachdev, Vascular cognitive disorder. Int J Geriat Psychiatry 14 (1999)402-403.] would become the global diagnostic category for cognitive impairment of vascular origin, ranging from VCI to VaD. It would include specific disease entities such as post-stroke VCI, post-stroke VaD, CADASIL, Binswanger disease, and AD plus CVD. This category explicitly excludes isolated cognitive dysfunctions such as those mentioned above.