Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute



the circle of Willis is an anatomical structure of clinical importance particularly in the evaluation of neurovascular diseases. Individuals show considerable variations in the anatomical configuration of the circle of Willis. A cross-sectional study was conducted to determine the distribution of morphological variations of the circle of Willis in Malawians and compare with other ethnic groups.


brains were collected from twenty-four recently deceased black Malawians during autopsy at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, a referral teaching hospital in Blantyre, Malawi and fixed in 10% buffered formalin. Digital images of the interpeduncular region (exposing the circle of Willis) were taken with an 18.4 megapixels camera from the base of the brain. Whole-circle and segmental parameters of the circle of Willis were assessed using the Osiris computer programme and classified based on a 22-type classification scheme.


the following morphological variations were observed: hypoplasia, aplasia, asymmetry and accessory vessels. Typical circle of Willis was seen in 26% of the cases. Only six of the original twenty-two types were observed. Consistent with most previous studies, types 1, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 9 were common while types 10-22 were rare. Three variants not previously described in the original scheme (unilateral PcoA aplasia, AcoA duplication, and PcoA aplasia with contralateral PcoA hypoplasia) were observed in this study.


anatomical variations of the circle of Willis in Malawians seem to be distributed in similar frequencies and patterns as in other more-diverse populations. Circle of Willis variants with potential predilection for atherogenesis and aneurysm formation exist in the Malawian population. These should be considered in clinical practice.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University


The Pan African Medical Journal

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