Purpose: To compare diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging with conventional T2-weighted imaging for evaluation of white matter changes in patients with Krabbe disease.
Materials and methods: In eight patients with Krabbe disease and eight age-matched control subjects, anisotropy maps were generated with diffusion tensor data by using echo-planar imaging with diffusion gradient encoding in six directions. Anisotropy maps and T2-weighted images were visually inspected. Relative anisotropy (RA) and normalized T2-weighted signal intensity in white matter tracts and gray matter nuclei were quantitatively compared between patients and controls (paired Student t test).
Results: Loss of diffusion anisotropy appeared on anisotropy maps as areas of decreased hyperintensity in patients with Krabbe disease. Differences in RA between Krabbe disease patients and control subjects were significant in eight of nine white matter structures studied (P =.001-.01) and in basal ganglia (P =.04). T2-weighted signal intensity was also significantly different in the same white matter structures (P =.006-.049) but not in basal ganglia. In the three patients imaged after stem cell transplantation, mean RA was between the RAs of untreated patients and control subjects.
Conclusion: Diffusion tensor-derived anisotropy maps (a) provide a quantitative measure of abnormal white matter in patients with Krabbe disease, (b) are more sensitive than T2-weighted images for detecting white matter abnormality, and (c) may be a marker of treatment response.