MR imaging and histologic features of subinsular bright spots on T2-weighted MR images: Virchow-Robin spaces of the extreme capsule and insular cortex

Radiology. 2000 Mar;214(3):671-7. doi: 10.1148/radiology.214.3.r00mr17671.


Purpose: To determine the cause and frequency of high-signal-intensity foci detected in the insular cortex and extreme capsule on thin-section, high-spatial-resolution, coronal, T2-weighted magnetic resonance (MR) images.

Materials and methods: The authors assessed high-signal-intensity areas in the insular cortex and extreme capsule on coronal MR images obtained in 56 patients with seizure and five control subjects. Images were obtained with thin-section, high-spatial-resolution, T2-weighted, fast spin-echo; three-dimensional, spoiled gradient-recalled-echo; and fluid-attenuated inversion-recovery sequences. In two formalin-fixed brain specimens, MR imaging findings were correlated with gross anatomic and histologic findings.

Results: Subinsular bright spots were found in 53 of the 56 (95%) patients (96 of 112 [86%] hemispheres) and all five control subjects. The spots were elliptical in 30 patients, round in 14 patients, linear in 22 patients, and dotlike in seven patients and often had a featherlike configuration. The spots were isointense to cerebrospinal fluid on T2-weighted, fast SE images and were located in the anterior extreme capsule white matter and insular cortex. MR imaging of brain specimens revealed bilateral elliptical areas of high signal intensity that corresponded to small multiple cavities at gross anatomic inspection. At microscopic examination, these cavities were perivascular spaces of mostly arteriolar origin.

Conclusion: High-signal-intensity subinsular foci at MR imaging are due to enlarged perivascular spaces. In most cases, these foci can be visualized on thin-section, high-spatial-resolution, coronal T2-weighted images; they should not be mistaken for pathologic conditions when they occur unilaterally.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cerebral Arteries / pathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cerebral Veins / pathology*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pia Mater / pathology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Retrospective Studies