NINDS – AIREN criteria for the diagnosis of vascular dementia

I. The criteria for the clinical diagnosis of probable vascular dementia include all of the following:

  1. Dementia defined by cognitive decline from a previously higher level of functioning and manifested by impairment of memory and of two or more cognitive domains (orientation, attention, language, visuospatial functions, executive functions, motor control, and praxis), preferable established by clinical examination and documented by neuropsychological testing; deficits should be severe enough to interfere with activities of daily living not due to physical effects of stroke alone.
    Exclusion criteria: cases with disturbance of consciousness, delirium, psychosis, severe aphasia, or major sensorimotor impairment precluding neuropsychological testing. Also excluded are systemic disorders or other brain diseases (such as AD) that in and of themselves could account for deficits in memory and cognition.
  2. Cerebrovascular disease, defined by the presence of focal signs on neurologic examination, such as hemiparesis, lower facial weakness, Babinski sign, sensory deficit, hemianopia, and dysarthria consistent with stroke (with or without history of stroke), and evidence of nof relevant CVD by brain imaging (CT or MRI) including multiple large vessel infarcts or a single strategically placed infarct (angular gyrus, thalamus, basal forebrain, or PCA or ACA territories), as well as multiple basal ganglia and white matter lacunes, or extensive periventricular white matter lesions, or combinations thereof.
  3. A relationship between the above two disorders, manifested or inferred by the presence of one or more of the following: (a) onset of dementia within 3 months following a recognized stroke; (b) abrupt deterioration in cognitive functions; or fluctuating, stepwise progression of cognitive deficits.

II. Clinical features consistent with the diagnosis of probable vascular dementia include the following:

(a) Early presence of gait disturbance (small-step gait or marche a petits pas, or magnetic, apraxic-ataxic or parkinsonian gait); (b) history of unsteadiness and frequent, unprovoked falls; (c) early urinary frequency, urgency, and other urinary symptoms not explained by urologic disease; (d) pseudobulbar palsy; and (e) personality and mood changes, abulia, depression, emotional incontinence, or other subcortical deficits including psychomotor retardation and abnormal executive function.

III. Features that make the diagnosis of vascular dementia uncertain or unlikely include (a) early onset of of memory deficit and progressive worsening of memory deficit and progressive worsening of memory and other cognitive functions such as language (transcortical sensory aphasia), motor skills (apraxia), and perception (agnosia), in the absence of corresponding focal lesions on brain imaging; (b) absence of focal neurological signs, other than cognitive disturbance; and (c) absence of cerebrovascular lesions on brain CT or MRI.

IV. Clinical diagnosis of possible vascular dementia may be made in the presence of dementia (section I-1) with focal neurologic signs in patients in whom brain imaging studies to confirm definite CVD are missing; or in the absence of clear temporal relationship between dementia and stroke; or in patients with subtle onset and variable course (plateau or improvement) of cognitive deficits and evidence of relevant CVD.

V. Criteria for diagnosis of definite vascular dementia are (a) clinical criteria for probable vascular dementia; (b) histopathologic evidence of CVD obtained from biopsy or autopsy; (c) absence of neurofibrillary tangles and neuritic plaques exceeding those expected for age; and (d) absence of other clinical or pathological disorder capable of producing dementia.

VI. Classification of vascular dementia for research purposes may be made on the basis of clinical, radiologic, and neuropathologic features, for subcategories or defined conditions such as cortical vascular dementia, subcortical vascular dementia, BD, and thalamic dementia.

The term “AD with CVD” should be reserved to classify patients fulfilling the clinical criteria for possible AD and who also present clinical or brain imaging evidence of relevant CVD. Traditionally, these patients have been included with VaD in epidemiologic studies. The term “mixed dementia,” used hitherto, should be avoided.


Roman GC, Tatemichi TK, Erkinjuntti T, Cummings JL, Masdeu JC, Garcia JH, Amaducci L, Orgogozo JM, Brun A, Hofman A, et al. Vascular dementia: diagnostic criteria for research studies. Report of the NINDS-AIREN International Workshop.
Neurology 1993 Feb;43(2):250-60.