In unselected patients with intractable temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), approximately 15% do not have detectable hippocampal atrophy on MRI. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether T2 relaxometry can identify hippocampal pathology and lateralize the epileptic focus in patients with intractable TLE, who do not demonstrate hippocampal atrophy on volumetric MRI (MRIV). We selected 14 patients with unilateral TLE who had unilateral atrophy and 11 patients with unilateral TLE who had no evidence of atrophy on MRIV. Images were acquired on a 1.5 T MR scan using a dual echo sequence with 23 contiguous oblique coronal slices in all patients and in 14 healthy subjects. Fitting a single exponential decay equation to the imaging data generated T2 maps. Averages of six slices containing the head, body, and tail of the hippocampus were used to calculate hippocampal T2 relaxation times (HT2). The epileptic focus was defined by history, video-EEG, and surgical response. All TLE patients with hippocampal atrophy and 9/11 (82%) patients with normal MRI had abnormally high HT2 ipsilateral to the epileptic focus. Bilateral abnormal HT2 were found in 6/14 (43%) of patients with unilateral hippocampal atrophy and 2/11 (18%) of patients with normal MRI. However, this increase was always greater ipsilateral to the epileptic focus. Qualitative hippocampal pathology showed gliosis and neuronal loss in 10/14 operated patients with hippocampal atrophy on MRIV and in 5/7 operated patients with normal MRI. In conclusion, hippocampal T2 mapping provides evidence of hippocampal damage in the majority of patients with intractable TLE who have no evidence of atrophy on MRI and can correctly lateralize the epileptic focus in most patients.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.