Magnetic resonance diagnostic markers in clinically sporadic prion disease: A combined brain magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy study

Raffaele Lodi, Piero Parchi, Caterina Tonon, David Manners, Sabina Capellari, Rosaria Strammiello, Rita Rinaldi, Claudia Testa, Emil Malucelli, Barbara Mostacci, Giovanni Rizzo, Giulia Pierangeli, Pietro Cortelli, Pasquale Montagna, Bruno Barbiroli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The intra vitam diagnosis of prion disease is challenging and a definite diagnosis still requires neuropathological examination in non-familial cases. Magnetic resonance imaging has gained increasing importance in the diagnosis of prion disease. The aim of this study was to compare the usefulness of different magnetic resonance imaging sequences and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in the differential diagnosis of patients with rapidly progressive neurological signs compatible with the clinical diagnosis of sporadic prion disease. Twenty-nine consecutive patients with an initial diagnosis of possible or probable sporadic prion disease, on the basis of clinical and electroencephalography features, were recruited. The magnetic resonance protocol included axial fluid-attenuated inversion recovery-T2-and diffusion-weighted images, and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy of the thalamus, striatum, cerebellum and occipital cortex. Based on the clinical follow-up, genetic studies and neuropathology, the final diagnosis was of prion disease in 14 patients out of 29. The percentage of correctly diagnosed cases was 86 for diffusion-weighted imaging (hyperintensity in the striatum/cerebral cortex), 86 for thalamic N-acetyl-aspartate to creatine ratio (cutoff ≤1.21), 90 for thalamic N-acetyl-aspartate to myo-inositol (mI) ratio (cutoff ≤1.05) and 86 for cerebral spinal fluid 14-3-3 protein. All the prion disease patients had N-acetyl-aspartate to creatine ratios ≤1.21 (100 sensitivity and 100 negative predictive value) and all the non-prion patients had N-acetyl-aspartate to myo-inositol ratios >1.05 (100 specificity and 100 positive predictive value). Univariate logistic regression analysis showed that the combination of thalamic N-acetyl-aspartate to creatine ratio and diffusion-weighted imaging correctly classified 93 of the patients. The combination of thalamic proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (10 min acquisition duration) and brain diffusion-weighted imaging (2 min acquisition duration) may increase the diagnostic accuracy of the magnetic resonance scan. Both sequences should be routinely included in the clinical work-up of patients with suspected prion disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2669-2679
Number of pages11
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


  • Diffusion-weighted imaging
  • Magnetic resonance
  • Prion diseases
  • Proton MR spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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