11C-flumazenil PET in patients with refractory temporal lobe epilepsy and normal MRI

Neurology. 2000 Jan 25;54(2):332-9. doi: 10.1212/wnl.54.2.332.


Background: Using 11C-flumazenil (FMZ) PET with correction for partial-volume effect, reductions of central benzodiazepine receptor (cBZR) binding can be detected reliably in vivo on remaining neurons in sclerotic hippocampi of patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE).

Objective: To delineate abnormalities of 11C-FMZ binding in patients with medically refractory TLE and normal quantitative MRI.

Methods: Analysis of parametric images of FMZ volume of distribution (Vd) using two complementary approaches: 1) MRI-based volume of interest (VOI) approach with partial volume effect correction for multiple hippocampal and extrahippocampal VOIs; and 2) statistical parametric mapping (SPM) to localize significant 11C-FMZ binding changes objectively on a voxel-by-voxel basis.

Results: Significant abnormalities of absolute FMZ-Vd were found after partial volume effect correction in 5 of 10 patients: unilateral decrease in the amygdala ipsilateral to the EEG focus (1), unilateral hippocampal decreases and bilateral temporal and extratemporal neocortical decreases (2), unilateral increase in the temporal neocortex together with extratemporal neocortical increases (1), and bilateral posterior hippocampal increases together with temporal neocortical increases (1). In the three patients with extratemporal neocortical changes, the concomitant unilateral hippocampal or temporal neocortical changes were contralateral to the presumed epileptic focus. Significant asymmetries of FMZ-Vd between homologous regions were found in six patients. In four of those patients, absolute FMZ-Vd for the homologous regions were within normal limits, with two of the four patients showing relatively higher hippocampal values ipsilateral to the presumed epileptic focus. SPM analysis localized significant abnormalities of FMZ-Vd in similar locations in three of the seven patients in whom VOI analysis detected significant changes. In addition, SPM indicated significant unilateral contralateral hippocampal decreases in an eighth patient. However, both methods failed to localize epileptic foci in two patients identified by depth-EEG recordings.

Conclusions: 11C-FMZ PET showed focal increases as well as decreases of FMZ binding in 80% of patients with refractory TLE and normal high-quality MRI but was not consistently helpful in localizing the epileptic foci.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / diagnostic imaging*
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / pathology
  • Female
  • Flumazenil*
  • GABA Modulators*
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / methods*


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • GABA Modulators
  • Flumazenil