Influence of Vascular Variant of the Posterior Cerebral Artery (PCA) on Cerebral Blood Flow, Vascular Response to CO2 and Static Functional Connectivity
Introduction The fetal origin of the posterior cerebral artery (fPCA) is a frequent vascular variant in 11-29% of the population. For the fPCA, blood flow in the PCA originates from the anterior instead of the posterior circulation. We tested whether this blood supply variant impacts the cerebral blood flow assessed by arterial spin labeling (ASL), cerebrovascular reserve as well as resting-state static functional connectivity (sFC) in the sense of a systematic confound. Methods The study included 385 healthy, elderly subjects (mean age: 74.18 years [range: 68.9-90.4]; 243 female). Participants were classified into normal vascular supply (n = 296, 76.88%), right fetal origin (n = 23, 5.97%), left fetal origin (n = 16, 4.16%), bilateral fetal origin (n = 4, 1.04%), and intermediate (n = 46, 11.95%, excluded from further analysis) groups. ASL-derived relative cerebral blood flow (relCBF) maps and cerebrovascular reserve (CVR) maps derived from a CO2 challenge with blocks of 7% CO2 were compared. Additionally, sFC between 90 regions of interest (ROIs) was compared between the groups. Results CVR was significantly reduced in subjects with ipsilateral fPCA, most prominently in the temporal lobe. ASL yielded a non-significant trend towards reduced relCBF in bilateral posterior watershed areas. In contrast, conventional atlas-based sFC did not differ between groups. Conclusions In conclusion, fPCA presence may bias the assessment of cerebrovascular reserve by reducing the response to CO2. In contrast, its effect on ASL-assessed baseline perfusion was marginal. Moreover, fPCA presence did not systematically impact resting-state sFC. Taken together, this data implies that perfusion variables should take into account the vascularization patterns.