Background: Traditional imaging methods, including computed tomography, routine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, have not been particularly useful in the diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Although abnormalities can be seen using these methods, the findings are evident only late in the disease or lack specificity or sensitivity.
Objective: To describe abnormalities on diffusion-weighted MRIs in 4 patients with proven CJD.
Methods: Diffusion-weighted MRIs were obtained on 4 patients with CJD as part of a routine MRI brain examination.
Results: In all 4 patients, diffusion-weighted MRIs of the brain demonstrated bilateral hyperintensity in the basal ganglia. In 1 patient, the most conspicuous abnormality seen in diffusion-weighted images was in the thalamus. Two patients also demonstrated hyperintensity in the cerebral cortex on diffusion-weighted images. Only 2 of 4 patients demonstrated clear abnormalities on routine (non-diffusion-weighted) MRIs. Diffusion abnormalities were visible in 1 patient within 1 month of symptom onset. The findings were most conspicuous and extensive in the patient with the longest duration of symptoms (7 months).
Conclusions: Diffusion-weighted MRI might provide a noninvasive method of identifying patients with CJD. However, further investigations must be performed to determine the specificity of these findings for CJD.