We investigated differences in the anatomical distribution of cerebral microbleeds (CMBs) on MRI, hypothesized to indicate the type of underlying cerebral small vessel disease (SVD), between Eastern and Western general populations.MethodsWe analyzed data from 11 studies identified by a PubMed search between 1996 and April 2014 according to the Preferred Reporting Items for a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Individual Participant Data. Study quality measures indicated low or medium risk of bias. We included stroke-free participants from populations aged between 55 and 75 years, categorized by geographic location (Eastern or Western). We categorized CMB distribution (strictly lobar, deep and/or infratentorial [D/I], or mixed [i.e., CMBs located in both lobar and D/I regions]). We tested the hypothesis that Eastern and Western populations have different anatomical distributions of CMBs using multivariable mixed effects logistic regression analyses adjusted for age, sex, and hypertension and clustering by institution.ResultsAmong 8,595 stroke-free individuals (mean age [SD] 66.7 [5.6] years; 48% male; 42% from a Western population), 624 (7.3%) had CMBs (strictly lobar in 3.1%; D/I or mixed in 4.2%). In multivariable mixed effects models, Eastern populations had higher odds of D/I or mixed CMBs (adjusted odds ratio 2.78, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.77-4.35) compared to Western populations. Eastern populations had a higher number of D/I or mixed CMBs (adjusted prevalence ratio 2.83, 95% CI 1.27-6.31).ConclusionsEastern and Western general populations have different anatomical distributions of CMBs, suggesting differences in the spectrum of predominant underlying SVDs, with potential implications for SVD diagnosis and treatment.