BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Asymmetries in the circle of Willis have been associated with several conditions, including migraines and stroke, but they may also be age-dependent. This study examined the impact of age and age-dependent changes in cerebral perfusion on circle of Willis anatomy in healthy children and adults. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We performed an observational, cross-sectional study of bright and black-blood imaging of the proximal cerebral vasculature using TOF-MRA and T2 sampling perfection with application-optimized contrasts by using different flip angle evolution (T2-SPACE) imaging at the level of the circle of Willis in 23 healthy children and 43 healthy adults (4–74 years of age). We compared arterial diameters measured manually and cerebral perfusion via pseudocontinuous arterial spin-labeling between children and adults. RESULTS: We found that the summed cross-sectional area of the circle of Willis is larger in children than in adults, though the effect size was smaller with T2-SPACE-based measurements than with TOF-MRA. The circle of Willis is also more symmetric in children, and nonvisualized segments occur more frequently in adults than in children. Moreover, the size and symmetry of the circle of Willis correlate with cerebral perfusion. CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrate that the circle of Willis is different in size and symmetry in healthy children compared with adults, likely associated with developmental changes in cerebral perfusion. Further work is needed to understand why asymmetric vasculature develops in some but not all adults.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


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