Medical Q&As

Multi-infarct dementia - what is it?

My dad became ill in February presenting with confusion. Over a few weeks his memory became worse and he has since been reliving his childhood. He has a memory span of about 2 minutes and then he will start the same conversation again as if for the first time. We are a young family our ages ranging from 28 to 10years old. We were told that he is suffering from multi-infarct dementia. Could you please explain and is it hereditary?

Multi-infarct dementia is the commonest form of vascular dementia. The term indicates that there are multiple areas of infarction in the brain, which means that there are several areas of dead tissue that have been damaged because of poor blood supply to those areas of the brain. The blood vessels in the damaged area are usually narrowed due to the presence of atherosclerotic plaques, which narrow the internal diameter of the affected blood vessel. The symptom pattern very much depends on the location of the areas of infarction. Impairment of memory is an early symptom of the condition. It also tends to begin abruptly and the person can often experience many physical symptoms and exhibit florid emotional changes. The affected person tends to deteriorate in a step-wise fashion with periods of abrupt change followed by periods of minimal decline. Personality and mood changes often accompany the mental deterioration. Confusion also tends to be worse at night. A history of stroke, hypertension or smoking are all risk factors for the condition. Some recent research suggests that multi-infarct dementia may hasten the development of Alzheimer’s disease. A CT scan of the head or an MRI scan may show areas of infarcted tissue in the brain, thus confirming the diagnosis. There is no specific treatment for multi-infarct dementia. Treatment is geared towards relieving symptoms and controlling any trigger factors such as hypertension. It is not possible to reverse the damage that has already been done. Once an area of brain tissue has infarcted it cannot regenerate. The condition is not hereditary.