Objective: To compare the frequency and specificity of hypointense magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) signal changes alone with the frequency and specificity of a pathological MRI pattern consisting of a hyperintense lateral rim and a dorsolateral signal attenuation on T2-weighted MRIs in patients with parkinsonism of various origins.
Patients: Ninety patients with Parkinson disease (PD) (n = 65), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) (n = 10), and multiple system atrophy (MSA) of the striatonigral degeneration type (n = 15) underwent MRI.
Setting: University medical center.
Results: Nine of the 15 patients with MSA showed the pattern with hyperintense lateral rim and a dorsolateral hypointense signal attenuation on T2-weighted images within the putamen. This pattern was not found in the 65 patients with PD, nor in the 10 patients with PSP. Only hypointense changes in the putamen were found in 6 patients (9%) with PD, 4 patients (40%) with PSP, and 5 patients (36%) with MSA.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that the pattern consisting of hypointense and hyperintense T2 changes within the putamen is a highly specific MRI sign of MSA, while hypointensity alone remains a sensitive, but nonspecific MRI sign of MSA. In clinically doubtful cases, the appearance of a hypointense and hyperintense signal pattern on MRI makes the diagnosis of PD very unlikely, while hypointense signal changes alone do not exclude idiopathic PD.