The Virchow-Robin spaces: delineation by magnetic resonance imaging with considerations on anatomofunctional implications

Childs Nerv Syst. DOI 10.1007/s00381-011-1574-y

The Virchow-Robin spaces (V-R spaces) are well-known, but not systematically understood fluid-filled perivascular spaces that allow the convexity and basal perforating vessels to penetrate deep into the cerebral parenchyma.

Objective This study aims to delineate anatomical characteristics of the normal V-R spaces by MR imaging with considerations on clinical and anatomofunctional implications of the V-R spaces.

Methods In this prospective study with 3T magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, the whole extent of the intracranial V-R spaces was classified into basal, cortical, subcortical, paraventricular, and brainstem segments, on the basis of the topological difference in 105 control subjects. Morphological characteristics in each segment of the V-R spaces are described. For comparison with the neuroimaging appearance, V-R spaces were histologically examined in cadaveric human brains. The physiological functions of the V-R spaces and pathognomonic implications of unusually dilated, but asymptomatic, V-R spaces encountered in five subjects are discussed.

Results The V-R spaces were found to form a complicated, while anatomically highly consistent, intraparenchymal canal network distributed over the whole cerebral hemispheres and connect the cerebral convexity, basal cistern, and ventricular system.

Conclusion The V-R spaces may be essential for drainage routes of cerebral metabolites, additional buoyancy for the brain, and maintenance of homogenous intracranial pressure. MR imaging may be more advantageous in depicting the V-R spaces than histological examination.